WINNIPEG — Pierre-Luc Dubois doesn’t like how high the speculation machine has been cranking up, yet he did little to pump the brakes or quiet the concerns of a fan base that is downright scared he’s not interested in a long-term commitment.
When it comes to the relationship status of Dubois and the Winnipeg Jets, it’s fair to say it’s a tad complicated, but not necessarily for the reasons you may have initially thought.
As Dubois took more than half an hour to try and set the record straight in both official languages on Monday, he left plenty of things open to interpretation.
One thing he took great pains to point out was that he didn’t accept the Jets one-year qualifying offer for $6 million because it makes him a more tradeable asset.
“You hear so many things that I apparently said or I apparently did and a lot of it is frustrating to read some things that I didn’t even know that I did — or I didn’t do or I didn’t say,” said Dubois. “There was never a doubt of holding out or forcing anything. You read stuff, like ‘he wants out of Winnipeg.’ If I wanted out of Winnipeg I would have asked for a trade. I didn’t ask for a trade. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to show up for camp.
“Now that’s taken care of, my contract is signed, I’m ready to go for the season. And next summer will be next summer. Next summer I’ll be a restricted free agent again and then it’ll be another decision. But for now, I don’t have to think about this anymore.”
So there you have it.
Even if Dubois isn’t ready to go to the altar on a long-term deal at this stage of the game, he’s committed to having a strong season and doing his part to help the Jets rebound.
He’s appreciative of the way the organization and his teammates supported him after his arrival, when by his own admission, he didn’t deliver.
He would neither confirm nor deny that he has his heart set on testing unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024, nor did he rule out changing his mind on considering sticking around Winnipeg beyond this contract.
This is where things begin to go sideways for members of Jets Nation.
If Dubois isn’t ready to declare his outright love and sign on the dotted line, there has been ample overreaction on social media about shipping him out immediately and many assumptions are being made.
Here’s the thing, Dubois isn’t afraid to march to the beat of his own drum at times and that’s part of what’s allowed him to have success at the NHL level.
He’s a curious individual by nature and he wants to think long and hard about where he’s going to spend the prime years of his career.
That’s not necessarily a slight on Winnipeg either.
Dubois said part of the reason he’s taking his time before locking in is that his next contract could be his last.
The immediate reaction from the fan base is how can someone who recently turned 24 be thinking of retirement before he’s even hit his prime?
Again, that’s not to say Dubois doesn’t love hockey, even if he’s not a guy who wants to squeeze every ounce of the game out of him before he decides to hang up the blades.
Nor does that mean he’s going to check out long before the end of that long-term contract, whenever — or wherever — it gets signed.
As for the open flirtation — and subsequent speculation that followed comments from his agent Pat Brisson that left open the possibility of one day playing for his hometown Montreal Canadiens — Dubois seemed to suggest that wasn’t orchestrated by him and he felt those words took on a life of their own.
At the time, Dubois was a free agent and could speak to any team, as he pointed out in another one of his answers.
“I think people took a little thing and blew it up times 20, and it’s fine. People can read into it what they want,” said Dubois. “To be honest, I didn’t think anything too much of it. What’s said sometimes and what actually happens and what’s actually being said in these meetings can be taken out of context and that’s how I see it. I just thought it was overblown, the reaction, and I think some people just ran with the two seconds that they liked or didn’t like to hear.
“I understand that's your guys' job at the same time. And, when I don't give you much, it's easier to speculate on what I want and what I don't want. Nowadays with social media it goes so fast. Articles come out every second, and some of them are 99 per cent wrong. You still read it and still wonder if it’s true. There’s been a lot, a lot, a lot of speculation. So now I’m finally happy you get to hear it from me, from the source. The man himself.”
But when asked a follow-up question about Brisson’s comments and how rare they seemed to be, Dubois said he trusts his agent, that he’s the best in the business and that he’s always acting in his best interest.
So while Dubois didn’t necessarily put those words in Brisson’s mouth or ask for them to be made public, he didn’t ask him to back track either.
“Yeah. See, just right there, the question was 'is Montreal a market he’d like to play in one day', and he (Brisson) said maybe it’s a place he would see himself playing in,” said Dubois. “He never said…your question was what was blown out of proportion, him saying did you want to play for the Canadiens. He said it’s a place that, maybe one day, he could play. I think people took that and blew it up times 10 and said he’s trying to force this, he’s trying to force that.
“If you asked any player that comes from a city that grew up watching a team in their city or province, yeah, they probably at some point in their life thought of that option. It’s no different than guys from Winnipeg or guys from Washington or guys from Boston or guys from Los Angeles. It’s no different than that. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just life.”
So yes, there could certainly be a time when Dubois is interested in playing for the Canadiens and it might not be far down the road.
As it stands right now, Dubois isn’t worried about that possibility and it isn’t at the top of his mind.
There are plenty of players who have shown the ability to compartmentalize situations like this one, some even flourish and play their best hockey.
What about the crowd that says the Jets should try and get ahead of things, that if Dubois won’t sign long-term that they should move him now and give the acquiring team an opportunity to have him for at least two playoff runs?
It’s a valid point, but the value of Dubois on the trade market will only go up if the third overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft takes the next step as a player.
For all of the people pointing to the recent deal between the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers as a comparison for what the return should be if the Jets reach that point with Dubois, remember that Tkachuk was one year away from UFA status and was coming off a 104-point season.
Dubois had 28 goals and 60 points last season and while he plays a premium position, he’s going to need to produce a point-per-game campaign or better before attracting a similar haul and the best chance of that happening is by having Kyle Connor and/or Nikolaj Ehlers ride shotgun with him next season.
Could Dubois have been a bit more direct in answering some of the questions sent his way on Monday afternoon?
No doubt about it.
He also provided a glimpse behind the curtain as to why things currently sit the way that they do and why the future is going to be cloudy and questions will continue — whether it’s during the season or by the time the one-year deal is up next summer.
“I understand what you’re saying, but I’m pretty sure you’ve, at some point, changed your mind or not been sure about something in your life,” said Dubois. “Who knows, a year later, maybe six months later, maybe 30 minutes later, you change your mind or you’ve thought of something different or you’ve thought of a different idea. Look, I don’t even know what I’m eating tonight at dinner. I don’t know what I’m going to do in two years. I don’t know what I’m going to do in six years.
“I don’t know what I'm going to do in six months. There are a bunch of different opinions and there are a bunch of different ways of thinking. I’m not somebody that has one idea and settles on it for the next six years. It’s just human nature to change your mind sometimes. That’s why I get you guys have articles to write, but these questions, sometimes these questions, the answers to the questions aren’t as easy as yes or no.”
Ultimately, the Jets and Dubois will have a decision to make.
Will they stay together for this season, beyond this season or will they cut ties before the summer of 2024.
Given the magnitude of the deal made to acquire him and the players involved, the Jets obviously can’t risk losing Dubois for nothing, so this is a short-term solution.
Currently, the Jets have cost certainty and Dubois knows where he’s going to be — barring something unforeseen.
“Look, at the end of the day guys get traded, guys sign long term, everything’s on the table,” said Dubois, noting he’s had a couple of productive calls with new head coach Rick Bowness. “Everything on the player’s side and on the team’s side is up in the air sometimes. There’s guys that sign long-term deals and get traded two years into their deal while they’re on vacation, while they’re just enjoying life, and they thought they were going to play somewhere for the rest of their career and you get a call and you’re shipped off the next day.
“And then you see guys like Johnny Gaudreau leaving through free agency. It’s a business and sometimes people think the business side is just the team but it’s both ends of the spectrum. There’s never easy decisions to make on players’ or GMs’ side, but at the end of the day it’s a business for everybody and the more you can work together and try to be on the same page and try to work in the same direction, obviously it’s the best way to do it. If every side can be happy with the outcome, that would be the perfect way of doing it.”