OC Register Pierre-Luc Dubois calls Kings trade ‘a dream come true’


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member
Jul 28, 2004
In a whirlwind offseason, the Kings’ tornado of trades, made ostensibly to create cap space in order to re-sign a defenseman and finally nail down a legit No. 1 goaltender, all led to general manager Rob Blake’s biggest investment yet in … a center?

With only one rostered goalie, Blake prioritized an extension for defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and then exchanged three roster players, including the emergent three-zone force Gabe Vilardi, and a high second-round pick for the privilege of signing former Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois to a weighty eight-year, $68 million contract.

Dubois augments a cadre of pivots that already included captain and leading scorer Anze Kopitar; 2022 team MVP and alternate captain Phillip Danault; spark plug and emotional charge Blake Lizotte; and 2020’s No. 2 overall pick Quinton Byfield, who spent the stretch run of last season as a left wing.

“You’ve got to be deep. You see the top teams in the West, and to be able to have to match them, you have to be deep through (the middle),” Blake said. “Those four centermen will be key for that lineup.”

The opportunity to snag Dubois, a 25-year-old who combines prototypical size with uncommon puck skills but has yet to fully materialize his potential, leapfrogged the house-on-fire urgency of a No. 1 goalie.

“I’m hopefully going to play my 500th game in the NHL this upcoming season, but I have so much to learn still,” said Dubois, adding that he was hoping to build on his consistency of a point-per-game pace for more than half of last season before his production fizzled during Winnipeg’s wild-card push.

“To be the complete player I want to become, it takes time, and I think I’m getting closer and closer to that,” he added.

Perhaps most notably, the Kings have now effectively unloaded vast assets from the trade deadline through Tuesday – Jonathan Quick, a first-round draft choice, a third-rounder, Cal Petersen, Sean Walker, Helge Grans, a second-round selection, over $3.5 million in salary retention over two seasons, Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, Sean Durzi and another second-rounder they acquired for him –– to add Dubois (eight-year extension), Gavrikov (signed for two years after a portion of last season) and what to this point was the short-term rental of goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

The situation was complicated considerably by what turned out to be strikingly misplaced faith in Petersen, whose $5 million cap hit was a wrench in the engine that was to propel the Kings’ sprint from also-rans to short-list contenders.

Gavrikov and Korpisalo were present for last year’s postseason, which resulted, as 2022’s did, in an elimination at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.

On Tuesday, Dubois, Blake and Kings president Luc Robitaille suggested the massive investments would bring the team forward in spring-into-summer runs to come.

“You’re not trying to make the playoffs, you’re trying to win the playoffs,” Robitaille said.

“I do think we have to be ready. We’ve been through a rebuild in the last few years, so I think it’s important right now to make sure we’re ready, that we can compete for a long time,” he added.

Dubois echoed that sentiment, saying his contract’s eight-year term gave him and the Kings a broad competitive window in which he hoped to hoist the Stanley Cup multiple times. He described joining the Kings as a “dream come true.”

He played with Gavrikov previously, in Columbus before Dubois was traded to Winnipeg, and Gavrikov video-called him to fill him in about the organization and region. Dubois also said he admired Kopitar immensely as a young player, and that Danault had already endeared himself to him both on and off the ice as a fellow francophone center.

“I haven’t been around Phil as a person a lot, but I feel like every time I’ve seen him, I feel like it’s a friend I haven’t seen in a long time,” Dubois said. “As a player, I think he’s one of the most underrated two-way centers in the NHL.”

Blake always maintained that he would break from his close-to-the-vest approach only to mobilize assets for players in their 20s entering their primes who were going to be in L.A. long-term. He has executed that plan in consecutive offseasons, having added prolific winger Kevin Fiala via trade last year and locking him down for seven seasons.

“Both (Dubois) and Fiala are at ages where they walk in and add production to our lineup right away,” Blake said.

Dubois had already played for two teams in his young career and had successfully requested a trade from both as his contractual situation reached any sort of impasse. Blake said he and his staff communicated with Dubois and his agent Pat Brisson to better understand those situations and Dubois’s desires. In the end, Blake rejoiced that Dubois settled on Los Angeles, just as a beaming Dubois felt fortunate to land in a city he said charmed him across many visits before and after turning pro.

Yet it won’t be all coastal sunsets and red carpets for Dubois or the Kings, as his hefty cap hit and the gymnastics involved in obtaining the right to spend that money have left the Kings in something of a precarious position, at least for the coming season.

They still need to acquire a goalie and fill out a roster that will likely not be able to carry the standard roster size and configuration for much or possibly all of the upcoming campaign. The salary cap increased rather modestly to $83.5 million, the NHL confirmed Wednesday, though a larger increase and some relief for the Kings individually both appear on the horizon for next summer. For now, with some extrapolation, the Kings are essentially brushing up against the upper limit, with significant needs remaining unaddressed.

Blake said sacrifices had been made and more would be necessary.

“I would imagine we’re light on our roster for a lot of the time during the season. A lot of the time you want to carry 23 (players), but you need cap space to do it,” Blake said. “There is going to be lots of juggling with the cap situation.”

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