The Pittsburgh Penguins took another step in keeping last year's gang back together. It was announced late last night that forward Pascal Dupuis agreed to a 4-year, $15 million contract with the team. The deal comes with a $3.75 million cap hit.
Of all the restricted and unrestricted free agents the Pens had heading into this offseason, Dupuis was probably the man fans most wanted to return.
Dupuis has become the type of player that defines this Pens team and coach Dan Bylsma's system. He works his ass off every shift, forechecks well, kills penalties and plays with speed. Even if this is all he did, and he was on the third line, the team and fans would be happy. But Dupuis has become a legitimate top line winger over the past few years. He has posted back-to-back 20-goal seasons and chipped in seven goals in this year's playoffs.
What may be the most impressive about Dupuis' scoring touch is that his goals come almost exclusively on at even-strength. Since the start of the 2011-2012 season, Dupuis has scored 45 regular season goals, 39 of which came 5-on-5. According to CBS Sports, only eight players in the NHL have scored more even-strength goals in that time period. They are: John Tavares, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, Jonathan Toews, Phil Kessel, Alex Ovechkin and Max Pacioretty. All of the above players have cap hits between $4.5 and $9.5 million, so Dupuis at $3.75 is certainly a discount.
Not bad for a man who was an afterthought in the Marian Hossa trade five years ago.
While we're talking about the Hossa trade, when are we going to start calling it the Dupuis trade? Hossa spent a few months in Pittsburgh and that team didn't win a Cup. Dupuis has been contributing for five years, will be around at least another four, and was a part of the team's 2009 Stanley Cup winner. I think it's time we make the name change.
The deal doesn't come without concerns, though. Dupuis and Kunitz definitely took less than they'd make on the open market, but now the team has almost $49 million tied up to nine players in 2014-2015. That leaves around $15 million for 11 more players if the cap doesn't move next year.
The cap will definitely go up in the future, but it may be awhile before it does so significantly based on James Mirtle's projections.
One also has to wonder if Dupuis, whose game revolves around speed, can keep that speed during the length of the contract. He is 34 and will be 38 when the deal is done. Hockey players seem to have more longevity than other athletes, but he plays a type of game that wears a player down. He hasn't shown signs of slowing down yet, so Pens fans have to hope he doesn't in the next four years.
Another question I have is how big of an influence Sidney Crosby had on this and the Kunitz deal? It's no secret that Crosby loves playing with Kunitz and Dupuis on a line and a part of having super stars on your team is keeping them happy.
I guess the reasons don't really matter as long as these guys keep producing at the level they are. Considering both Dupuis and Kunitz will be playing on a line with the best player in the world, chances are they will and the team will continue to be a favorite for the Stanley Cup every year.