After a sterling playoff performance, Pierre-Luc Dubois is poised to become the highest-paid player on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The pending RFA, who just wrapped up his third season in Columbus, was trending towards becoming a bonafide number one center, took a massive step in the postseason, matching up against Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Brayden Point, and Anthony Cirelli with success. The 22-year old, who played a monstrous
22:57 per game, scored at a point-per-game clip, posting 4-6-10 in 10 games.
He memorably scored a hat-trick in Game 3 of the qualifying round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the Blue Jackets stormed back from a 3-0 deficit. Dubois scored the first goal, the tying goal, and the OT goal, in the comeback.
Dubois possesses the rare combination of size, speed, tenacity, and skill that allows a player to be drafted third overall. But for as great as he's been, his (lack of) consistency has been an issue. The center is well-aware of that and took a step in 2019-20, but even as recently as Aug. 14, John Tortorella said he "still needs to be more consistent."
Even so, it's crystal clear that Dubois plays a massive role in the future of this team. Which brings us to this offseason. Alongside Josh Anderson and Vladislav Gavrikov, Dubois is priority number one to sign to an extension. There are basically two schools of thought when extending an RFA:
- Bridge contract - a 2-3 year deal that allows the player to bet on himself to become more impactful, thus allowing for higher future earnings in a relatively short timeframe
- Long-term extension - the club will buy UFA year(s) in order to lock up a player for the long haul.
The Blue Jackets went the bridge route with Zach Werenski, who signed a three-year, $15M deal last September. He'll be an RFA again after 2021-22 and will be able to sign a richer contract. But the sense is that Dubois and the club will agree on a long-term deal. In March, Evolving-Hockey projected that Dubois will sign a 7-year, $7.32M contract. More recently, the Hockey-Code projected a similar deal: 6-years, $7.226M.
As it stands today, Cam Atkinson is the club's highest-paid player, earning $5.875M, according to CapFriendly. Seth Jones, who is set to become a UFA after 2021-22, is still the long-term bet to become the highest-paid player on the club (assuming that deal gets done). But in the short term, it appears that Dubois will be the owner of that title.
Dubois is surely deserving of the pay increase. He's proven that he owns the abilities to become a legitimate first-line center in the NHL. Soon, he'll be paid like it. Then, Tortorella and the coaching staff will expect him to continue to take his game to another level.