Pierre-Luc Dubois was traded to the Capitals. Darcy Kuemper was sent to the Los Angeles Kings

After more than a year of talking about trading for a top-six forward, the Washington Capitals made their move on Wednesday. The Capitals traded goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Los Angeles Kings for center Pierre-Luc Dubois, taking a swing at a talented but mercurial 25-year-old who will play for his fourth team in five years.

Dubois, the third pick of the 2016 draft by the Blue Jackets, spent the first three seasons of his NHL career with Columbus before being traded to Winnipeg in January 2021. Dubois then used his leverage as a pending restricted free agent, after a move that clearly didn’t see a long-term future. For himself in Winnipeg, working in a trade with the Kings last summer, a move that netted Dubois an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

His first season with the Kings fell well short of expectations, and his name has been floated in recent weeks as a buyout candidate when the window opens after the Stanley Cup Finals. Instead, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dubois was traded to Washington less than two weeks before his full no-motion clause took effect on July 1.

“We are pleased to announce the addition of Pierre-Luc to the Cubs organization,” Washington general manager Brian McClellan said in a statement. “This acquisition brings a talented 25-year-old with tremendous potential to become a top-tier center in the NHL. With his size, exceptional skating skills, and high hockey IQ, we are confident he will thrive in our organization with increased responsibility and opportunity.”

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

Kuemper, 34, who the Capitals signed to a five-year, $26.25 million contract in July 2022, lost his starting role to Lindgren midway through last season, and there doesn’t appear to be a path back to the No. 1 spot. 1 netminder in Washington. With three years remaining on his contract, it was difficult for the Capitals to move on without retaining salary — or risking a player they got in return, as they did with Dubois.

If DuBois reaches the ceiling of his ambition, it may be the answer to Washington’s quest for a high-level central position. He has sought out size and is highly skilled, but his track record over the past few seasons suggests that unleashing his potential will be the job of Spencer Carberry and the rest of the Capitals’ coaching staff.

The end of Dubois’ tenure with the Blue Jackets turned ugly. His lack of interest in one shift against the Tampa Bay Lightning led to him being benched by then-coach John Tortorella and he was traded two days later, and the ending couldn’t have been much prettier in Winnipeg as he worked his way out the door.

On the ice, Dubois had a career high in his final season with the Jets, scoring 63 points in 73 games, but his first and only season in Los Angeles didn’t go according to anyone’s plan. He fell out of the lineup, eventually averaging just under 16 minutes of ice time and scoring 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games.

But when Dubois is engaged and at his best, he can be a difference-maker — and the Capitals are betting they’ll be able to get him to that point.

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