Columbus Blue Jackets: Grading the Pierre-Luc Dubois extension with crisis averted

Just ask Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Columbus Blue Jackets how quickly things change in the NHL.

No less than an hour or two after Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported that Pierre-Luc Dubois was potentially looking “for a change of scenery,” the forward signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It means that Dubois will be an RFA with Arbitration rights once this contract expires after the 2021-22 season, which carries an Average Annual Value of $5 million.

And, for those cap nerds out there, the forward’s contract is worth $3.35 million in 2020-21 and then spikes to $6.65 million in 2021-22.

This is essentially a bridge deal for Dubois who will now have two years to further perfect his craft and develop as a playmaking center in the NHL, putting himself in line for a potential huge pay day during the 2022 offseason.

Whether he is still in Columbus by then depends on who or what you believe but, for now, it appears that Dubois and the Blue Jackets will remain married after renewing their vows for another two years at least.

It is a win-win for both parties too and we’re going to delve into why, before attempting to give this extension a final grade.

Let’s go…

Pierre-Luc Dubois (18)

Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Dubois on the rise

Pierre-Luc Dubois is one of the most intriguing young centers in the National Hockey League right now, but is perhaps underrated given that he plays for the Blue Jackets.

However, the 22-year-old is a strong scorer, he can create and he’s also elite when it comes to driving play.

Granted, the forward did endure a down year in 2019-20 with 49 points (18 G, 31 A) in 70 regular season games after recording 61 points (27 G, 34 A) in 82 regular season games the year before.

However, last season was cut short due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Dubois is perhaps a victim of his environment in that he plays on a Blue Jackets team more known for their defensive prowess and grittiness rather than being an offensive force.

That being said, Dubois is a leading man for Columbus and he’s expected to be one of their main sources of firepower in 2020-21 and beyond, hence a two-year bridge deal in order to prove just that.

After all, the Blue Jackets are paying Dubois $10 million over the next two years for what he could become as well as what he has produced in three years so far.

With 158 points (65 G, 93 A) in 234 career NHL regular season games for Columbus, in addition to 19 points (8 G, 11 A) in 26 Stanley Cup Playoffs contests, Dubois has provided a taste of just what he’s capable of.

And perhaps none more so than during the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs when, despite the Blue Jackets losing in the Eastern Conference First Round to the eventual champions the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dubois was lights out with 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in 10 games with a 53 percent expected goals rate, while outscoring opponents 9-4.

Put simply, he was a beast during the postseason and that is how high Dubois’s ceiling is – if he can put everything together then the Columbus Blue Jackets will have an offensive juggernaut on their hands who can drive play at an elite level, while coming up clutch in big moments and really spearheading an offense.

He’s also an all-round threat in that he does everything to a high level, including carrying the puck in, lay the body on, win faceoffs and also log big minutes if asked to.

Interestingly, the 22-year-old only averaged 17:56 of ice time during the 2019-20 regular season, although that jumped to a lofty 22:57 in the Playoffs, but he’s certainly capable of being a real workhorse for Columbus if they need him to be.

Also, he won 55.9 percent of his faceoffs during the postseason and that is an encouraging sign given that Dubois needs to work on his defensive impact, although he has very few weaknesses in his game overall.

Let’s not forget either that Pierre-Luc Dubois is incredibly durable given that he hasn’t missed a single game over the last three seasons, which is a huge plus point.

Pierre-Luc Dubois (18)

Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Grading The Deal

Ignoring all the trade talk out there, this was an important deal for the Columbus Blue Jackets to get done.

They have lost a plethora of star power and offensive juggernauts over the last couple of years, including Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene.

Therefore, the Blue Jackets needed to sign Pierre-Luc Dubois to an extension and $10 million over two years is a great deal.

In fact, it is a home run of a deal.

For all of the reasons we’ve mapped out above, Dubois is a 22-year-old center who can put up big numbers, log huge minutes, drive play and carry the puck into the zone at an elite level, he’s durable and he’s improving every aspect of his game.

Therefore, Columbus is getting Dubois for two more years under value and this contract could look ridiculous this time next year if the forward takes that next leap in 2020-21.

I mean, Dubois could easily see a spike in his ATOI this season while continuing to play big roles on both the power play and the penalty kill, while having Max Domi behind him on the second line could also help to ease some of the pressure of carrying this less than explosive offense.

Signing a bridge deal is also a good thing for Dubois in that his value could be sky-high in two years if he continues on his current trajectory and, by that point, hopefully the world is in a better place and players like Dubois will be able to get the money they deserve.

But, for now, the Columbus Blue Jackets are retaining the services of a rising star in Pierre-Luc Dubois who does everything well and could really see a surge in his offensive numbers in 2020-21, so that’s why I’m comfortable giving this such a high grade:

Columbus Blue Jackets A

And, the other benefit of signing Dubois, who is the fastest Blue Jackets player to record 100 career points (143 games), to a team-friendly deal, is the fact that Columbus now has $4,225,875 in cap space according to CapFriendly.

That is significant because it allows them to go out and add some depth to their lineup before the 2020-21 season gets underway on Jan. 13, 2021 should they so wish, although they have accomplished their biggest offseason mission by getting their No. 1 center in Pierre-Luc DuBois back under contract.