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Penguins Q&A: Dubas Excitement, What Comes Next?



Kyle Dubas Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike Sullivan, Tristan Jarry

The Pittsburgh Penguins introduced wunderkind hockey exec Kyle Dubas as their new president of hockey operations Thursday. After more than a week since the first interview, the deal was done. The Penguins’ ownership group, Fenway Sports Group, wisely skipped past the GM post, giving Dubas the larger role with directorial control of the hockey department.

Most Penguins fans were elated.

So much so that no NHL trade rumors sprang forth.

Penguins fans were even more optimistic after Dubas’s press conference Thursday afternoon. Dubas provided answers, not platitudes. He directly addressed several topics, including goalie Tristan Jarry’s future, the immediate future of coach Mike Sullivan and his top priorities.

This was the reaction of most when PHN put out the call for a Q&A. It’s not exactly a hard-hitting question, but the answer is simple.

Because he’s a hockey person with a specific philosophy, has a track record of success, and … he’s never worked, played, or lived in Philadelphia.

Dubas is both Analytics and Eye Test. He’s acquired grit, speed, and skill for his teams when needed and has been at the fore of using analytics. It’s exciting to have new thinking. There’s promise and hope. That’s enough to help most Penguins fans turn the page from the Ron Hextall regime, which soured quickly to almost biblical proportions.

We received so many questions Thursday evening that we had enough material to do both a video and print version. We’ll post the video separately.

Welcome to my world, Jeff. I usually feel frustrated, but here we go:

Pittsburgh Penguins Q&A:

Chicken is referring to Penguins 2021 seventh-round pick Ryan McCleary of the Portland Winterhawks. But Chicken uses some awkward confirmation bias to tie the decision to coach Mike Sullivan. The Penguins did not sign McCleary by the 5 p.m. deadline Thursday, and they lost his rights.

Some of y’all need some context in your life. Like most seventh-round picks, he probably wasn’t good enough, and the Penguins have enough prospects who are ECHL quality. That or Sullivan left a note on Dubas’ door demanding a smaller, slower team beginning with smaller, slower prospects and threatened to photoshop pictures of Dubas in a Flyers jersey to release on Facebook.

One of those two scenarios is indeed true.

Dubas specifically said that FSG is behind his vision for the hockey department, and they will expand or put additional resources where Dubas feels necessary.

I surely do not see cuts in player development, scouting, or coaching. I see expansion in those areas. The Penguins must beat the bushes to find the next wave of prospects and help. The goal is to shorten the transition from the core to the next chapter.

Todd Reirden’s work with the Penguins’ power play can be questioned. The power play was borderline stinky this season, but his work with defensemen is praised. Presumably, the power play can be fixed by Reirden or Sullivan.

  1. The only incentive a pending UFA has to agree to a sign-and-trade is to receive the eighth year on a contract that only a retaining team can offer. No one is giving Tristan Jarry a full seven or eight-year deal so that remote possibility becomes implausible.

  2. Jeff, let’s see where the next few weeks and the NHL Draft takes us. I am a proponent of adding a player or three like Tyler Bertuzzi; he adds grit, energy, and goal-scoring ability. It’s not hard to like those things.

It will be hard to find the money and space. Bertuzzi will probably earn in the $6 million range next season, perhaps higher. The Penguins have some cap space but understand that such a move would necessarily mean they scrimp somewhere else.

Bear in mind, injuries limited Bertuzzi this season. After a 30-goal campaign, he scored just eight goals and 30 points in 50 games this season.

If the opportunity arises, Dubas will ingratiate himself to fans with that type of home run signing, but there are also risks.

It would also mean the end of Jason Zucker’s Penguins tenure.

  1. I don’t think Tristan Jarry will be back. I’m reminded of November when Sullivan “corrected” Jarry, who told reporters he was struggling with an injury. Sullivan flatly said Jarry wasn’t injured.

Dubas said he would lean on Sullivan and goalie coach Andy Chiodo. He also said he would compare Jarry’s value with the market. I don’t think Jarry’s injury-plagued season will help his case.

I think Jarry was frustrated. I think the Penguins were frustrated. I think someone offers Jarry the big contract, but it won’t be the Penguins. Also note I’ve been wrong before.

  1. Dubas’s choice for GM will be interesting. He admitted that teams wouldn’t give permission for their assistant GMs or inner circle-type folks to interview this close to the draft and free agency. That means he’ll be conducting his own search in July.

Sure, some of the Penguins finalists would seem to share similar philosophies and outlooks as Dubas. But, unlike FSG, Dubas lives in the hockey world. He probably has an idea of two or three people he’d like to interview. Dubas’s presence changes the calculus, too. He can hire a younger, less experienced person whose knowledge complements his.

Jason Spezza is probably too green for the role, but he seems qualified for other positions under the new GM. Perhaps we again open the door on someone unique like Canucks AGM Emilie Castonguay or Cammi Granato?

Dubas could also keep the GM role and hire assistant general managers. He did hedge ever so slightly about hiring a GM, “If that’s the road we go down.”

I’d put the chances at 75/25 that he does. He has value for the Penguins. His contract with a $6.25 million AAV makes him a bit more difficult to move, though not impossible.

It sure has.

Familiarity breeds contempt. Penguins fans might be getting too familiar with Casey DeSmith and not seeing the upside.

His value has increased, and that’s why he is almost assuredly a Pittsburgh Penguins goalie next season. For context, the league is moving toward more tandems. The middle-of-the-road starting goalies are being squeezed into lesser roles for less money. The Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights adopted an “It takes a village” approach to goaltending, and Vegas could win the Stanley Cup next week.

DeSmith’s run at the Worlds probably opened a few eyes, but he makes only $1.8 million. Vegas collected backup and third goalies, but they signed for $2 million or more.

DeSmith has had two straight terrible first halfs, followed by pretty good second halfs. Could the Penguins improve their backup goalie situation? Yep. Could they do worse? Yep.

So, do the math. The Penguins have a bargain which, at worst, adds depth to the position. Adin Hill and Laurent Brossoit spent time in the minors and NHL this season. Brossoit feels like DeSmith’s level.

If they can upgrade, they will, but it won’t be the top priority.