Monday morning’s media Zoom call was a meeting that Winnipeg Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois admits he was not looking forward to.
Typically after signing a contract, players are enlightened, excited and expressive when speaking with local reporters.
That was not the case for Dubois on Monday.
Having just agreed to terms on a one-year, $6 million qualifying offer that was presented to him by the Jets’ management, the 24-year-old Dubois was not looking forward to facing the hard questions from a market known for its strong media presence.
“You hear so many things that I apparently said or I apparently did and a lot of it is frustrating to read some things that I didn’t even know that I did – or I didn’t do or I didn’t say,” Pierre-Luc Dubois said, in opening his availability. “But at this time, the one-year deal, the qualifying offer, was the way that we wanted to go. There was never a doubt of holding out or forcing anything. You read stuff, like ‘he wants out of Winnipeg.’ If I wanted out of Winnipeg I would have asked for a trade. I didn’t ask for a trade. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to show up for camp.”
"If I wanted out of Winnipeg, I would have asked for a trade. I never asked for a trade."
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) July 25, 2022
For a guy so beloved by local fans, the feeling around Manitoba has seemingly switched from adoration to ire, in a matter of just one comment from Dubois‘ agent earlier this month.
Pat Brisson, who represents Dubois through his agency, earlier made a public remark that Dubois could see himself playing for the Montreal Canadiens in his home province down the line.
Fans in Winnipeg immediately turned against Dubois as wanting to leave town, much like that of players’ past and potentially even present.
“I saw the comments that he made,” Dubois 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 what they want. To be honest, I didn’t think anything too much of it. What’s said sometimes and what actually happens and what’s actually being said in these meetings can be taken out of context and that’s how I see it. I just thought it was overblown, the reaction, and I think some people just ran with the two seconds that they liked or didn’t like to hear.”
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No, it wasn’t all that sincere, and it certainly was a bit dodgy. He was asked a few times as to his long-term plans but didn’t give a full answer on where he planned to play out the bulk of his career.
Dubois does not answer the question both times it was asked whether he plans of leaving Winnipeg via free agency when eligible in the summer of 2024.
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) July 25, 2022
“I just think that this next deal might be for the rest of my career,” he said. “I might retire with this. I just turned 24 years old. I look at myself from two, three, four years ago and I’m a completely different person. It’s a major decision and I want to be sure to make the right one. It has nothing to do with stuff like that. Sometimes, you know, you make a decision not because you hate something or you don’t like something, sometimes it’s just because you have something else in your mind.”
But he did make it clear that a long-term deal with Winnipeg was not off the table, however, he does plan to keep his options open.
“I enjoy working with you guys but I was not looking forward to this call,” Dubois chuckled. “You know, it’s not easy but it’s part of the business. It’s part of, as much as getting on the ice and playing well is part of my job, this is also part of it. This one-year contract could be something that hovers during the season or at the end of next year, and we could be on the same call next summer. But I try not to think about it.”
Last season, Pierre- Luc Dubois had his best showing for the Jets, putting up 28 goals and 32 assists for 60 points in 81 games – far from a top producer across the league, but undoubtedly a critical piece to the puzzle, should he stay with Winnipeg after his restricted free agency concludes.
“It’ll be interesting with the new coaching staff, the ideas they have, with the new systems, the culture they want to set,” he said. “Last year I thought we had a really good team. It was a very disappointing year. Not making the playoffs and being out with a handful of games left was very disappointing… But for us, the team coming to camp, we’re as confident as we were last year. It was disappointing, frustrating, a hard pill to swallow and almost like a slap in the face, a wake-up call. 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, so this training camp with this new staff is going to be very important for us to prepare for the season.”
According to the power forward, a lot of what has been floating around in the public Twitterverse is hearsay. Dubois made it clear that the rumour mill has been churning a bit harder than usual, prompting his negativity towards Monday’s call with reporters.
“I get you guys have articles to write, but these questions, sometimes these questions, the answers to the questions aren’t as easy as yes or no.”
Whether the thought of Dubois skipping town for Montreal in the summer of 2024 holds any merit, he does understand where the idea is derived from.
“If you asked any player that comes from a city that grew up watching a team in their city or province, yeah, they probably at some point in their life thought of that option,” Dubois said. “It’s no different than guys from Winnipeg or guys from Washington or guys from Boston or guys from Los Angeles. It’s no different than that. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just life.”
Who wouldn’t want to play for their hometown team? Often easier said than done, but through his actions leading up to the signing of his contract, Dubois has left lots on the table.
The plate is full, and the mouths are salivating.
For Pierre-Luc Dubois, the 2022-23 season will be another big test. Calling his first year with the Jets “awful”, he said he rebounded last season, and is looking forward to another chance with a talented group of players he knows can and will get the job done.
“I think we have a really good team,” he said. “I said it last year and I’ll say it again, even though last year was a disappointing year. We can do a lot of damage this year in the NHL and I think from the forward group to the D’s to Bucky in net, everybody on the team, I think we have a good team. It’s going to be a big year for us. With a chip on our shoulders sometimes, that extra motivation helps you throughout the year. You’re going to have ups and downs but to remember what happened the season before of not making the playoffs and that disappointment can really be good for us and an advantage for us this year.”
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