Five years later, Dupuis' value grows for Penguins
General manager Ray Shero remembers sitting in Boston's press box when the biggest name from his biggest trade, Marian Hossa, sustained a possibly serious knee injury during his first game with the Penguins.
Shero's initial thought: “Oh, my God, we just gave up a ton for Pascal Dupuis.”
Hossa recovered, yet spent only a few months with the Penguins before moving on. Five years later, he remains a star.
Dupuis, the less-heralded player acquired in that February 2008 trade with the Atlanta Thrashers, has transformed himself from an ordinary role player into something much more.
“Pascal might laugh at that story now,” Shero said.
Dupuis is the jovial type, but he also takes his career seriously. And he turns serious when the topic of finishing his career with the Penguins is mentioned.
There is no hesitation.
“Yes,” Dupuis said. “That is absolutely what I want.”
Dupuis becomes a free agent this summer. He is earning $1.5 million this season and, though he turns 34 in April, is playing the best hockey of his career.
He scored 22 even-strength goals last season. Only 24 NHL players scored more, and Dupuis accomplished this despite playing only a handful of games with center Sidney Crosby, who missed 60 games because of a concussion.
Dupuis also has developed into one of the Penguins' best penalty killers, and he is a trusted locker room presence.
“He's created quite a niche for himself,” Penguins right wing Craig Adams said. “He's just got that great speed, and he's worked hard to maintain it. And obviously he clicks with Sid. He's just put it all together.”
Dupuis isn't bugging Shero about a new contract, but he made it clear he would prefer to finish his career where it has blossomed.
“The time will come when it will be time to talk with Ray,” Dupuis said.
Dupuis' agent, Allan Walsh, isn't looking to initiate negotiations with Shero. Still, he aims to keep his client happy.
“Now is the time to play hockey,” Walsh said. “The business side is a discussion better suited for the off-season. That being said, if Pittsburgh has something to say, we would always be open to listening.”
Shero does not have a lengthy history of spending money on players in their 30s. For every Dupuis and Matt Cooke — 30-something players he re-signed — reliable players such as Ruslan Fedotenko and Hal Gill were allowed to leave.
“But what Duper is doing is pretty impressive,” said Fedotenko, who now plays for the Flyers. “I mean, yes, it helps your numbers when you're playing on a line with a guy like Sid. But listen, if he wasn't getting the job done on Sid's line, he would be replaced. The guy is a good player. He was always good. But he's gotten even better.”
So, what is the secret to Dupuis' success?
“I always say the same thing,” he said with a smile. “Clean living.”
Then he turns serious again.
“I've worked hard,” he said. “Very hard.”
That work hasn't gone unnoticed by Shero who, admittedly, only viewed him as a “nice, complementary player” in 2008.
“He's in great shape,” Shero said. “He can really shoot the puck. He's solid defensively. There's a lot of trust to his game, from his linemates to the coaching staff. He's certainly matured as a player.”