Although the new divisional alignment and ongoing pandemic may halt trade activity this season, there is no slowing down the rumors. Just a few games into the current campaign, a number of high value players have rumored to be on the block. The likes of Keith Yandle, Jack Roslovic, and of course Patrik Laine have all been mentioned in rumors, but none that quite peak the interest of Calgary Flames fans quite like Pierre-Luc Dubois.
A former third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Dubois has made headlines recently due to his desire to be moved from the Columbus Blue Jackets. His reasoning remains unclear, but his recently signed two-year $10M contract appears to simply bridge the gap for his next team.
After his breakout in the bubble during last season, there is no doubt that every general manager in the NHL is calling Jarmo Kekalainen offering up their best available trade package. Brad Treliving, unsurprisingly, was one known to be making calls to the Finnish GM.
On Thursday, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period broke the news that the Flames have “serious interest” in the young center. As we have seen in the past, Treliving appears to leave no stone unturned whenever a player becomes available, both in trade or free agency. When it comes to previous trade rumors, Treliving has a knack for coming in second, but maybe this time is different.
After being drafted in 2016, Dubois wouldn’t crack the NHL lineup until the 2017-18 season with the Blue Jackets. Since then, Dubois has been a mainstay in the lineup and now would arguably be noted as their best player. Of course, it goes without saying, that players of Dubois talents and stature rarely become available in trade scenarios, which makes it that much tougher for Columbus to navigate. Since breaking into the league, here are Dubois offensive stats:
In his first three full seasons, Dubois has been able to increase his offensive production each season. He most likely would have been able to do so last season had it not been for the shutdown, but did score ten points in ten games during the playoffs. He’s also yet to miss a game in his NHL career which is rare in today’s NHL.
On top of that, he has also been able to increase his faceoff percentage year over year as well, and although it’s not as high as premier centremen in the league, keep in mind that Dubois most likely is facing those players on a nightly basis. His steady increase shows that its a developing part of his game, but trending in the right direction.
In terms of his underlying numbers, they are beyond impressive for a player in his ELC. Posting a season average in CF%, SCF%, HDCF%, and xGF% all above 50% is shocking to see. He ranked in the top 10 on his team across all categories measured, often placing in the top five. He clearly is a possession heavy center who is able to generate a ton of scoring chances and be on the right side of the goal differential.
That being said, these numbers could be skewed by the fact that he’s gotten a ridiculous amount of offensive zone starts, averaging above 70%. To put that in perspective, Johnny Gaudreau was tops on the team last season with 61.3%. John Tortorella clearly leaned on his young center when starting in the offensive zone, but Dubois’ overall profile cannot be ignored.
For the Flames, adding a 22 year old center, who is most likely projected to be a number one option, is a clear no brainer. The real question becomes what would the price be to acquire him? Similarly to the Mark Stone trade a few years ago, you may not want to give up good prospects or picks, but the opportunity to trade for a player of Dubois’ caliber may not come up again during Treliving’s tenure.
The starting point for both the Flames and the Blue Jackets would be a center. With the Flames moving Elias Lindholm to center, and with the likes of Derek Ryan, Dillon Dube, and Sam Bennett playing on the wings, the team would most likely have to give up a center in the deal. Likewise, the Blue Jackets are giving up their number one center and would most likely be looking to not start over, rather replace him and acquire additional assets.
That makes the obvious candidate quite apparent: Sean Monahan
Like it or not, Monahan has been the Flames’ number one center over the past few seasons. This current campaign may be the one where that title transitions to Lindholm, depending on production. The 26 year old former sixth over all selection would slot right into the Blue Jackets number one slot and would be there for an additional two seasons after this one.
Monahan has been a consistent offensive producer during his time in the league, and although he may have benefitted from Gaudreau’s prowess, and that would be most appealing to the Blue Jackets.
Of course a one for one deal isn’t likely, unless the Blue Jackets miraculously bring Peter Chiarelli in to barter the trade, and so it becomes the question of “what else”? If Monahan is to be the center piece, then the Flames would need to add a young defensive prospect and draft selection to make this happen. If I’m the GM, which trust me I am not, I would offer the Blue Jackets something like this:
|To Calgary||To Columbus|
|Pierre-Luc Dubois||Sean Monahan|
2021 3rd Round Selection
Hanifin has yet to truly show just why he was taken fifth overall in 2015, but at the age of 23 he still has a lot of growth left in his game. The Flames have offered him in the past, showing that clearly they may not be as high on him as they once were, and the Blue Jackets may see him as a guy that can bolster their second pairing on a decent contract for the next four seasons after this one. Plus the Flames also have Juuso Valimaki who could easily slot in to replace Hanifin, while also giving Connor Mackey and Oliver Kylington the ability to slot in the lineup more often.
The third rounder in this year’s draft would be the sweetener, as the Flames own an additional one this year and would easily part with it in this deal. Should they include a first round pick? Probably, but at the same time the Jackets are getting two younger established players in the deal and the Flames would likely argue that.
With the expansion draft and expected cap stalemate coming next season, this gives both team a little more flexibility to work with. The Flames would need additional space for Dubois next contract, while the Blue Jackets would be able to shore up their cap for the next few seasons without having to overpay for free agents.
A win-win in my mind
This is the major roadblock for the Flames in this deal. As it stands right now, the Flames probably shouldn’t make this type of transaction until the 2021 Draft. The team could catch fire, no pun intended, and make a solid push for the Stanley Cup. With COVID restrictions, and the timing of games, if the Flames were to make this trade now they wouldn’t be able to get Dubois on the ice for most likely two weeks. That would mean a handful of games they would be playing shorthanded, and even a shorter amount of time for Dubois to get acclimated to the team.
If things go south for the Flames this season, then this could be the “shakeup” to the core group that has been threatened for so many seasons. The only problem is would Dubois still be available at that time?
I think a lot of teams share the same hesitation based on the condensed schedule, which is why I don’t think the Blue Jackets look to move Dubois during the season – unless someone offers them a cornucopia of assets.
Make it happen Brad
If the player and deal is still available at the 2021 NHL draft, regardless of how the team finishes this season, then Treliving needs to make this happen. Dubois is going to be a star in this league for a long time, and with the uncertainty of what will happen with Gaudreau in free agency, this type of transaction would ensure the Flames have a star player for years to come.
Treliving has been close to acquiring this type of star in the past, and has balked at the cost, but this may be his last opportunity to pull something like this off and he may as well swing for the fences.
What do you think about a potential Dubois trade? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by: Russell LaBounty (USA TODAY Sports)