What should the Kings do with Pierre-Luc Dubois? –

Go back a few years and the Los Angeles Kings were an up-and-coming team, emerging from a three-year rebuild overseen by general manager Rob Blake.

Now, after three straight first-round exits at the hands of the Oilers, with each game ending faster than the last, tough questions are being asked of the Kings general manager who built the team.

“Three years of losing to the Oilers in the first round, does that push a usually very patient ownership group to say ‘now is the time to act,’” Elliotte Friedman asked on Friday’s 32 Thoughts: The Podcast.

From 2019 to 2021, the Kings made three picks inside the top 10 of the NHL Draft and, in retrospect, took a few other picks, including Mikey Anderson, Alex Lafferriere and Brock Faber, who was ultimately traded to Minnesota for Kevin Fiala (Faber is a Calder finalist this season).

Instead of waiting for the development of this rebuild to bear fruit, the Kings looked to capitalize and move forward. As mentioned, Fiala was an expensive trade, Viktor Arvidsson was acquired for picks, Phillip Danault was a free agent, and Vladislav Gavrikov was signed for a first-round pick.

However, the most expensive acquisition of all was that of center Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Kings sent Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari and a second-round pick to Winnipeg for Dubois, who had been holding off on signing him out of Winnipeg after similarly expressing his desire to be moved out of Columbus.

While the trade was worth it for the Jets (especially Vilardi, with 22 goals in 47 games), the Kings haven’t gotten their money’s worth. Just after landing with Los Angeles, Dubois signed an eight-year deal with an $8.5 million cap hit that seemed to lock him in as a major player, a top-six center and, one day, Anze Kopitar’s likely replacement as The Guy in front.

However, in Year 1, Dubois scored just 16 goals and 40 points in 82 games, down from 27 goals and 63 points in 77 games last season. In Los Angeles he was demoted to the fourth line and, in the playoffs, was limited to one garbage-time goal in a 7-4 loss in Game 1. He did not record a shot on goal in any of the last three games against Edmonton and his underlying numbers were even worse: Among Kings forwards, Dubois was last in 5-on-5 shooting percentage (36.84) and last in expected goals percentage (37.98) this postseason.

That brings us to an interesting point. Typically, there wouldn’t be such an early exit for such a large contract, but Dubois and the Kings find themselves in a unique situation.

Here are options the Kings will be thinking carefully about.


It’s incredible that this could be on the table for a 25-year-old, 6-foot-3, 218-pound center just a year after the team made such a large investment in him. But the fact is, if the Kings are considering an early release plan, this might be the most cost-effective way (and time) to do it.

Because Dubois is only 25 years old, that means they could buy him for a third of the remaining value of his contract. If a player is 26 years old or older when you buy him, he costs you two-thirds of the remaining value. Dubois will turn 26 on June 24.

Now here’s where it gets interesting…

The first purchasing window opens on June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final ends, whichever is later. And, according to the NHL’s calendar of key dates, the last possible The day of this year’s Stanley Cup Final is… June 24. If the playoffs are delayed long enough, the Kings may not even have a chance to buy out Dubois at a third of the price.

If the only option is to buy it at age 26 for two-thirds, it might be too big a pill to swallow. Remember, the “dead cap” space left would stretch more than twice the remaining length of the contract, so a Dubois buyout would leave a cap trail in its wake for 14 years.

On a two-thirds buyout, Dubois’ dead cap space would range from $2.7 to $4.9 million over the next seven years, and then cost $2.26 million over the final seven years (2031-32 to 2037-38).

But if the Kings have a window to buy Dubois for one-third of the value, the dead cap space would range from $1.5 million to $3.82 million over the first seven years, then cost $1.13 million each. of the last seven years.

Here you can see a side-by-side look at what you would like for a one-third purchase versus a two-thirds purchase. courtesy of PuckPedia.

And, for the owner, the difference between these two scenarios is enormous. A one-third Dubois buyout would cost $27.3 million, while a two-thirds buyout would cost $43.16 million. Not a great look for the GM who signed the deal, either.

Would Blake, who signed this contract, be in a position to buy it? Or perhaps that would be a more likely scenario for a new GM, which would have to act quickly?

The question you have to ask yourself is this: Would you rather have seven more years of Dubois for $8.5 million, or the much less expensive 14 years?


yes getting something Returning for Dubois, after giving up so much, is a priority, so the Kings will have to study the trade market. Of course, that market probably won’t be filled with eager Dubois buyers now.

Like the buyout, there is only a narrow window in which the Kings will be in their most advantageous position. In Year 1 of his contract, Dubois does not have any trade protection, so the Kings could potentially negotiate with any interested team.

But once that contract moves to the 2024-25 NHL schedule on July 1, a full no-movement clause is introduced for the next four years. They would have to move it before then to create the best market. At the same time, given Dubois’ history of leaving two other cities, any acquiring team would want to be sure he would be happy with his city.

Of course, moving Dubois could also require the Kings to retain some of his salary, and perhaps more salary than the salary penalties of a buyout. The San Jose Sharks traded Tomas Hertl to Las Vegas and retained $1.387 million on their books for another five seasons. However, the Sharks are rebuilding, while the Kings are trying to compete, so maintaining that amount (or probably more) for seven years wouldn’t be the ideal scenario.


Giving up such a talent (a big-bodied, skilled center who has produced before and was a top-three draft pick) at age 25 could easily backfire. What if Dubois ever returns to the brilliance he showed in the 2020 bubble playoffs with Columbus, when he was a point-per-game player and a nightmare for opponents trying to create his own offense? He has come within a couple of goals of 30 in a season three times before. What if he reliably becomes that player?

After struggling to acquire several talented offensive players in recent seasons, the Kings had to resort to a 1-3-1 system under interim manager Jim Hiller this season to be competitive. What if that wasn’t right not just for Dubois, but for this entire collection of talent? What if the answer is to address other areas of the roster (goaltending, blue line, depth, etc.) and bring in a new coach with a new approach to unlocking the best version of Dubois? What if Dubois is better used as a winger, where he often played as a junior?

Dubois as a player is a big ‘What If’ right now, but the Kings face a very narrow window in which they could choose an exit route for the player.