Anyone who reads this blog or follows my twitter/facebook realizes that I considered Pascal Dupuis to be one of, if not the most important free agent that the Penguins had to deal with. He is such a versatile piece of the puzzle here that replacing him would have been a lot tougher than one would think.
Most importantly, he has developed great chemistry with Sidney Crosby, something that hasn’t come easily to everyone who has ever skated a shift with the Penguins captain. He uses his great speed to kill penalties and to create short handed opportunities off the rush. He has the ability to play just about anyway in the line-up, be it a top six role or a grinding it out on the fourth line.
Ultimately, he has become the biggest piece of the Marian Hossa trade back in 2008, which is saying something considering many looked at Dupuis as being a throw in piece of that deal. He has become a vocal presence in the locker room who is well respected by his teammates. He has also taken on a leadership role in the organization often being amongst that group who braves the media on a nightly basis, win or lose.
His new deal reportedly pays him $3 million dollars over the next two seasons, which could be considered somewhat of a steal in an NHL that just saw Brooks Laich cash on a new deal that will pay $4.5 million per year. That isn’t to say that they are very comparable, just that they are both complimentary parts to star studded teams.
This free agency season is shaping up a lot like last year’s. Ray Shero has seemingly drawn up a “pre” and “post” “noon on July 1st” blue print and you are seeing the “pre” go into full effect. Look for a determination to be made on the Jagr situation, Mike Rupp and Tyler Kennedy well before Friday afternoon and if resolutions don’t come to pass, look for the replacements to sign within the first couple hours of the “post” plan.
Just like last year saw Shero acquire the rights to Dan Hamhuis, while at the same time spending a significant amount of time in negotiations with Sergei Goncher, which provided much clarity of their intentions, thus allowing him to immediately strike on deals with Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek as free agency began — this week will likely play out in the same way.
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For old times sake… here is a piece I penned on Pascal Dupuis back in March of 2010.
Pascal Dupuis: “How You Like Me Now”
The Penguins made a couple signings during the morning hours of July 1, 2008. One thrilled the masses, while the other was greeted with mocks and jeers.
Ray Shero inked Evgeni Malkin to a long term extension, but also signed winger Pascal Dupuis to a three year deal that would pay him $1.4 million per season. To say that Penguins nation was not pleased with the Dupuis news would be an understatement.
It made no matter that Shero had locked up a versatile winger who could play just about any forward position, kill penalties and fill in on the top two lines as needed. All that people seemed to remember was a streaking number nine flying down the wing and missing the net with his slap shot — or maybe putting that puck in the gut of the goaltender.
The signing actually made a ton of sense, as Shero has always loved to flesh his roster out with swing men — players who are affordable and can do a ton of different things for his team.
Dupuis has used this season to say one thing to his naysayers, “How you like me now??”
The native of Laval, Quebec has been one of the Penguins best players this year and especially since the league reconvened following the Olympics. He is oozing confidence on a nightly basis, which has him crashing the front of the net with regularity, keeping his stick on the ice and best of all finishing.
His goal yesterday gives him 17 for the season, which is only three off of his previous career high, set during the 2002-03 season in Minnesota.
“Especially since the break, I feel like I’m on top of my game,” Dupuis said after a recent game at Mellon Arena. “I definitely feel great.”
Feeling great has Dupuis playing some of the best hockey of his nine year NHL career.
“I am pretty happy with the way things are going right now, knock on wood,” said Dupuis. “I just want to keep it going. … We all talked about the last 20 games of the season being big for us creating a team identity and showing both other teams and ourselves how good we can be. As a team we have done it.”
The success cannot be coming to a better guy either. Having spent some time around him over the past few seasons, I can vouch for the fact that he is a gregarious as they come, the first to pull a prank on a teammate and an all around good guy.
It is a rare scrum with Dupuis that doesn’t illicit laughter from the gathered media, sort of like his session following last week’s game against Boston. Dupuis had just picked up another big goal in the game, but he had to work extra hard for this one – chopping at Tim Thomas’s leg like a jack rabbit before pushing the goaltender and puck into the net.
“As many as it took,” Dupuis answered, laughing, when asked how many whacks it took. “I think I even got one in after the referee blew the whistle and signaled for the goal.”
Dupuis has proven to be a very valuable commodity for the Penguins and is as big a reason as any for their recent successes — which allows him to continue singing his new theme song “How you like me now??”