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Kings send Dubois to Capitals for Kuemper

Harry How / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Just one season after inking an eight-year, $68-million extension with the Los Angeles Kings, Pierre-Luc Dubois is on the move again.

The Kings shipped Dubois to the Washington Capitals in exchange for goaltender Darcy Kuemper, the teams announced Wednesday.

It's a one-for-one trade, and no salary was retained on either side.

"We are thrilled to announce the addition of Pierre-Luc to the Caps organization," general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. "This acquisition brings in a talented 25-year-old with immense potential to become a top-tier center in the NHL.

"With his size, exceptional skating, and high hockey IQ, we are confident he will thrive in our organization with increased responsibility and opportunity."

The Kings acquired Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets in June 2023 in exchange for Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, and a 2024 second-round pick. However, Dubois didn't come close to meeting expectations in his first season in L.A., managing just 40 points.

This marks the third time in four years that Dubois has been part of a blockbuster deal. In January 2021, the Columbus Blue Jackets traded him and a third-round pick to the Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.

Dubois is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound center who will turn 26 years old Monday. His best season came in 2022-23 with the Jets when he produced 27 goals and 36 assists in 73 games.

A no-movement clause in Dubois' contract will kick in July 1. His $8.5-million cap hit is on the books through 2030-31.

The Capitals were in dire need of help down the middle. The longtime one-two center punch of Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov is no more, as the latter was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2024 deadline, while the former's playing career is potentially over due to hip issues. Dubois and Dylan Strome project to serve as the club's first- and second-line centers.

John McCreary / National Hockey League / Getty

Kuemper, meanwhile, lost the starting goalie gig to Charlie Lindgren in 2023-24, posting an .890 save percentage and a minus-1.73 goals saved above expected in 33 games, per Evolving-Hockey.

"We also thank Darcy for his valuable contributions to our organization on and off the ice and wish him the best in Los Angeles," MacLellan said. "After witnessing Charlie Lindgren's performance last season, we believe he deserves a chance to play a more significant role within our team."

Kuemper was once among the game's elite goalies. He finished fifth and seventh in Vezina Trophy voting in 2019 and 2020, respectively, owning a .926 save percentage in 84 games over those two seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. Kuemper also led the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in 2022, recording a .921 save percentage during the regular season and a .902 mark in the playoffs.

Even as recently as 2022-23, Kuemper ranked 15th among NHL goalies with a 13.21 GSAx.

The 34-year-old briefly spent 19 games with the Kings during the 2017-18 campaign. His second tenure in L.A. projects to last longer, as he's under contract for three more seasons at a $5.25-million cap hit.

Goaltending was a big area of need for the Kings entering the offseason, as both Cam Talbot and David Rittich struggled in the playoffs and were on one-year deals. Rittich was re-signed to a one-year, $1-million pact in May and projects to serve as Kuemper's backup.

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