Pierre-Luc Dubois says he never asked the Winnipeg Jets for a trade and comments that he wants to play in Montreal were blown out of proportion.
The five-year NHL forward spoke with the media on a phone call Monday after agreeing last Friday to a one-year, US$6-million qualifying offer with the Jets.
“You hear stuff that I want out of Winnipeg,” Dubois said. “If I wanted out, I would have asked for a trade. I didn’t ask for a trade. Not for one second. It didn’t cross my mind for one second to ask for a trade.”
The 24-year-old Dubois arrived in Winnipeg early in the 2020-21 season in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic and a third-round draft pick.
The native of Ste-Agathe-Des-Monts, Que., played 81 games for the Jets last season, recording a career-high 28 goals and 32 assists. His 60 points was one shy of the career-best 61 he posted with Columbus in 2018-19.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff had wanted to lock up the top-six centre to a long-term deal. He’s now a restricted free agent again next summer and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
Speculation about Dubois’ future ramped up after his agent, Pat Brisson, was reported as saying Dubois would like to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
Dubois felt as though the question to Brisson, and his answer, were misinterpreted.
“I saw the comments that (Brisson) made,” he said. “I think people are blowing them out of proportion. I think people took a little thing and blew it up times 20, and it’s fine. People can read into it (if) what they want.”
Dubois pointed out that the question Brisson had been asked was really, “Is Montreal a market he’d like to play in one day?”
“And he (Brisson) said, ‘Maybe it’s a place he would see himself playing in,’” Dubois said.
Dubois had attended the NHL draft in Montreal earlier this month, igniting a report he was there because a deal was in the works to trade him to the Canadiens.
He explained he’s a fan of hockey and has gone to past drafts. He’d been invited to the Montreal one by his bank, which had a box for the event.
Dubois also lives 10-15 minutes away from Bell Centre.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for a player to be asked if they’d like to play in their hometown market, Dubois pointed out.
When asked if he'd like to play for the Canadiens one day, Dubois said: “You never know what might happen. There are so many things on the table, so many things that could happen.
“I’ve signed my contract with Winnipeg and I look forward to the season starting. That’s all I’m thinking about right now.”
The one-year deal was the length he felt comfortable with at this point in his life. He wants to give a long-term deal a lot of thought, plus get the opinions of his family and girlfriend.
“In the middle of my next contract I might have a family,” he said. “You don’t know, there are so many things that could happen that I don’t want to move too quickly and regret it later.
“When you tell yourself you want to be somewhere a long time, you have to be sure about it not just for the first or second year, but for the length of the contract.”
The Jets (39-32-11) missed the playoffs this past year for the seventh time since relocating to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011.
Players expressed frustration about the season, which included Paul Maurice unexpectedly resigning as head coach last December. The club finished with interim bench boss Dave Lowry.
Earlier this month, the Jets hired new head coach Rick Bowness.
Dubois plans to go to Michigan this summer to skate with some teammates. He said he’s looking forward to training camp and turning the page from last season’s underachieving outcome with the new coaching staff.
“It was disappointing, frustrating, a hard pill to swallow and almost like a slap in the face, a wake-up call,” he said.
“But we know the talent we have on our team. We know we have a good team. We know we have confidence in each other … Sometimes when you have a chip on your shoulder and you have that extra motivation, it can go a long way in having a good year. So we'll start at training camp and go from there.”
The third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Dubois has 239 points (102 goals, 137 assists) and 306 penalty minutes in 361 career games for both the Jets and Blue Jackets.
He’s also played for Canada on multiple occasions, including three world championships, and won world silver in 2019 and 2022.
Dubois is the son of Manitoba Moose assistant coach Eric Dubois.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2022
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press