Here we go, Insiders!
The LA Kings have acquired forward Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for forwards Alex Iafallo, Gabriel Vilardi and Rasmus Kupari, as well as a 2024 second-round draft pick. The pick was acquired from Arizona on Saturday in exchange for defenseman Sean Durzi. Dubois has agreed to terms on an eight-year contract, carrying an AAV of $8,500,000 through the 2030-31 season. We’ve obviously seen parts of this deal come out through the media over the past 72 hours and now we’ve got the full package. My take on the move below.
Instant Analysis –
What the Kings are bringing in is obvious, right? This is a top-six forward who just turned 25 years old on Saturday. This is a player who has three seasons with 25+ goals and 60+ points under his belt. The Kings now have that player under contract for the next eight seasons. He’s played big minutes both in Columbus and Winnipeg since he stepped into the NHL at 19, after he was selected third overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. Of the players selected in 2016, Dubois ranks in the Top 10 in goals, assists and points. Dubois also presents an obviously appealing package of size and skill. He’s 6-4, nearly 220 pounds and combines that with high level of offensive ability. For a team that doesn’t have a ton of size, Dubois certainly does have it and not only does he have that size, but he’s willing to engage and use it. Over the last two seasons, only five players have more than 100 points and more than 180 penalty minutes. Two of the other players are Matthew and Brady Tkachuk. Additionally, Dubois has been one of the NHL’s most productive players on the power play over the last two seasons, with 26 power-play goals in that span. His 3.03 power-play goals per/60 over the last two seasons ranks 14th among the 176 players with 300 or more minutes played. All-in-all, this is a productive and impactful player who the Kings not only acquired, but signed to a long-term contract in the process.
With Dubois in the fold, the Kings will, and should, believe that they can matchup with any team in the NHL down the middle. Dubois joins Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault in a 1-2-3 punch that you’d take against just about every team around the NHL. Whoever of that bunch is listed as the 3C will have a career full of experience matching up against top-six players. That’s a mismatch somewhere and the Kings effectively took advantage of those matchups last season. Now, it’s even more so. It’s certainly a lot of resources invested down the middle, but that’s not unlike other teams who have won in the recent memory. Independent of order in the lineup, the Kings now have three centers who they can trust in any matchup, against any opposition. Around those centers remains a large, talented stable of wingers. We don’t know how it will be broken down, but the Top 9 will be loaded, driven by the men in the middle. With three, high-caliber centers down the middle of the ice, there are really endless possibilities of how the Kings can shape up their lineup up front.
That’s the player coming in angle of it and I think we can all agree that in a vacuum, this is a player who makes the Kings better. What makes this trade different than others recently, in which the Kings added high-level talent to their roster, is that this trade represents a new way forward for the Kings. It’s a new twist in the vision, with additional resources allocated towards a high-end center. In all of their deals since 2021, picks were traded, roster players were exchanged, but drafted/developed NHL talent was never shipped out……until the last four days. The Kings never fully pushed their chips into the pot for a move that takes the next step forward. Moving a first-round pick for a potential rental player is a win-now move, certainly, but the Kings maintained a lot of flexibility coming out of it. This move is the one the organization has to be looking at as the transaction that could put them over the top. This deal is moving two, middle-six level forwards and other assets for one higher-level one, not to mention the NHL-caliber defenseman who was moved in a separate deal on Saturday in Sean Durzi. As a part of this deal, Dubois signed the extension with the Kings worth $68 million over eight years, a move that cements him as a part of the team’s core up front. The Kings now have Dubois and Kevin Fiala signed long-term, around the same age and cap hit, in that sweet spot range between the Kopitar’s and the Byfield’s of the world. Same range that Adrian Kempe is in, just for a shorter term. The way the cap is set up for the Kings, they had the room to add one player of this quality this offseason and chose to acquire Dubois. That’s a huge statement and a huge decision to make. Bold and brash has won Stanley Cups – see Golden Knights, Vegas – but this is a step the Kings had not taken until now. The Kings are ready to push, Insiders. That’s exciting.
Regarding the value of the deal, make no mistake about it, this is a big package going out. To be expected, because you’ve got to give to get in this league. The Kings are sending out not just three members of their 2023 playoff roster in Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo and Rasmus Kupari, but two players who were serious contributors. The last 12 months for Vilardi took him from a player who was not even a lock to make the 23-man roster last fall to someone who is the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade. 23 goals in a breakout season will do that for you. The Kings invested a lot of time into Vilardi and were just starting to reap the rewards for their patience. The benefit they’ll ultimately reap just turns out to be his value, as opposed to his on-ice production. Vilardi’s body of work presented a tricky negotiation this offseason, though the Kings had almost all of the leverage, and we won’t find out how those negotiations would have gone. Iafallo was signed as an undrafted free agent the same summer Vilardi was drafted. He never played in the AHL and is one of the league’s most successful UDFA signings in recent memory. He was also a quiet leader in the room and a well-liked teammate, in addition to solid and trusted two-way player. He was also one of several forwards in a similar salary range, a range which had to subtract at least one contract to round out the rest of the roster. Iafallo is not a salary dump – he is part of the value in this trade – but his inclusion was necessary to make the money work. On Kupari, he spent the bulk of the season as the team’s 4C, contributing as an effective penalty killer, with good size, speed and work ethic. The offensive part of his game has not yet come around as hoped, though he’s still young. Still, an NHL roster player and someone who was a lineup regular this season.
It’s the talent going out that always ties to the emotional side of things. The player coming in is damn good, so even if you don’t like the trade or the value, this is a very good player who chose to commit his long-term future to the Kings. From a value standpoint, the Kings moved two, middle-six forwards for a top-six forward. As discussed, it’s not a trade they’ve made so far in this rebuild. The obvious emphasis is on Dubois to not just play at the level he has, but to exceed it, while continuing to bring that different element. This move also creates opportunities for younger players such as Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev to take their own next steps and become solidified Top-9 players around the core of centers that is now in place. There are now spots available that not only could be filled but need to be filled and this is as much an opportunity for those players and potentially others in the system. With another big contract on the books, the Kings will need performers on entry-level contracts to fill roster spots, with several internal options from which to choose from. Lots of factors here Insiders, including that one, which will ultimately determine how successful this trade is for the Kings.
Kings General Manager and Executive Vice President Rob Blake
Pierre-Luc Dubois is an elite two-way center with a unique skillset, and we’re excited to have him join the organization and commit to us long-term. Over the last few seasons, he has proven the ability to contribute to all facets of the game and we are thrilled to be able to add a player of this caliber into our lineup.
Kings President Luc Robitaille
On behalf of the entire LA Kings organization, we would like to thank Alex, Rasmus and Gabriel for their immense contributions both on and off the ice. Their efforts over the last few seasons on the ice, as well as with fans and throughout the community, have made a substantial mark on our franchise and we wish them all continued success in their future.
Regarding where this move leaves the salary cap, the Kings are using approximately half of their remaining space on this trade. Including only the players under contract who were NHL regulars last season, the Kings have approximately $4.5 million in cap space with 11 forwards, four defensemen and one goaltender under contract. They naturally need to add 2-3 forwards, 2-3 defensemen and a goaltender with that space, meaning that we will either see a lot of entry-level contracts, or potentially more moves could follow. For now, though, the Kings have their center of the future locked in, with supplementary moves to come in around him.
From the team’s official release –
Dubois, 25, posted a career-high 63 points (27-36=63) in 73 games and added four points (2-2=4) in five Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Jets last season. It marked the first time he’s produced consecutive 60-point campaigns (60 points (28-32=60); 2021-22) and the second time he’s surpassed 20 goals in back-to-back seasons (2017-19).
The 2022-23 campaign was also the second-straight season in which the 6-4, 215-pound forward established several single-season career-highs. In 2021-22, he set career marks in goals (28), game-winning goals (6), powerplay goals (15), penalty minutes (PIM; 106) and time-on-ice per game (TOI; 18:55) before reaching new career-highs in points (63), assists (36), powerplay points (23), powerplay assists (12) and faceoff win percentage (48.89%) this past season.
Dubois joins the Kings as one of just five players in the NHL to amass over 100 points and 180 PIM over the past two seasons. Of those five players, Dubois ranks third in points (123), goals (55), assists (68) and TOI (18:42) and sits fourth in games played (154) and PIM (183). Collectively, his performance over the last two seasons paces all Kings forwards in powerplay goals (26) and PIM (183) while tying captain Anze Kopitar in powerplay points (42). He also ranks second in TOI (Kopitar, 20:32), third in points (Kevin Fiala, 157 points (56-101=157), Kopitar, 141 points (47-94=141)), goals (Adrian Kempe (76), Fiala (56)), and assists (Fiala, 101; Kopitar, 94), and sits fourth in games played (154).
Originally drafted third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2016 NHL Draft, Dubois leads the entire 2016 NHL Draft Class in powerplay faceoffs taken (432) and powerplay faceoffs won (222) while ranking second in penalties drawn (186), PIM (383), faceoffs taken (5,409), faceoffs won (2,456), even-strength faceoffs taken (4,942) and even-strength faceoffs won (2,216). He is also one of five players in the class with four or more 20-goal campaigns and one of 10 players with multiple 60-point seasons. Among NHL skaters 25 years-and-younger, he ranks fourth in faceoffs won (2,456), seventh in powerplay goals (36) and eighth in points (302), goals (129), even-strength goals (93) and games played (434).
Over six NHL seasons split between Winnipeg (2021-23) and Columbus (2017-21), Dubois has amassed 302 points (129-173=302) in 434 regular-season games and contributed 26 points (10-26=26) in 38 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. He began his NHL career with Columbus in 2017-18, totaling 159 points (66-93=159) in 239 regular-season games and posting 19 points (8-11=19) in 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games before being acquired by the Jets on January 23, 2021. In 195 regular-season games with the Jets, Dubois tallied 143 points (63-80=143) and added seven points (2-5=7) in 12 playoff games.
Prior to the NHL, Dubois spent four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (2014-17) and Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (2016-17), earning 199 points (73-126=199) in 164 career QMJHL games. He added 39 points (18-21=39) in 38 QMJHL postseason contests highlighted by finishing runner-up in the 2017 QMJHL Finals.
Internationally, the Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec native has represented Canada in five International Ice Hockey Federation events, including three IIHF Men’s World Championships (2018, 2019 – silver, 2022 – silver), one IIHF World Junior Championship (2017 – silver) and one IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship (2015 – bronze). Dubois is also the son of Eric Dubois, a fourth-round pick (76th-overall) by the Quebec Nordiques at the 1989 NHL Draft.
Iafallo, 29, tallied 36 points (14-22=36) in 59 regular-season games and added four points (3-1=4) in six Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Kings this season. An undrafted free agent signing in April 2017, Iafallo has spent his entire six-year NHL career with the Kings, amassing 204 points (84-119=204) in 420 appearances and nine points (5-4=9) in 16 career playoff games.
Kupari, 23, collected a career-best 15 points (3-12=15) in a career-high 66 games played with the Kings this season. The Kings first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft, Kupari made his NHL debut in 2020-21. Over parts of three seasons, the Kotka, Finland native has collected 29 points (9-20=29) in 130 regular-season appearances and appeared in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Vilardi, 23, registered 41 points (23-18=41) in 63 games this season, establishing career-highs in games played, points, goals, assists, powerplay points (9), powerplay goals (5), powerplay assists (4), game-winning goals (6) and TOI (15:36). In the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Vilardi set career marks in games played (5), points (4), goals (2) and assists (2). A first-round selection (11th overall) by the Kings in the 2017 NHL Draft, Vilardi has registered 78 points (41-37=71) in 152 regular-season games and added four points (2-2=4) in seven playoff games.