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Dupuis, Penguins beat deadline with a 4-year, $15 million deal

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 11:06 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis celebrates his third-period goal against the Islanders — his second of the game — on Sunday, March, 10, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Pascal Dupuis scores, kills and talks. The Penguins will get all of that next season.

Dupuis agreed to a new contract late Tuesday. Negotiations with the Penguins came down to a Wednesday deadline, and Dupuis' deal snuck in 13 minutes before midnight.

“Done deal,” Dupuis said Tuesday.

His contract is worth $15 million total over four years — a $3.75 million hit on the salary cap.

Dupuis, 34, has been with the Penguins since accompanying fellow winger Marian Hossa in a trade from Atlanta in February 2008.

Captain Sidney Crosby would have missed Dupuis most of all.

Upon learning the Penguins would prioritize trying to prevent Dupuis from hitting the open market, Crosby's eyes widened with excitement during the club's season-ending locker clear at Consol Energy Center.

“That's great,” Crosby said. “He's such an important player for us.”

Dupuis could have known as soon as Wednesday if other clubs would view him similarly. A two-day window for impending free agents to negotiate with other teams began at 12:01 a.m.

Shero can expect to field calls from agents of players who are interested in joining the Penguins. He will keep calling agents for some of the six remaining Penguins players eligible to become unrestricted free agents.

However, conversations with Dupuis' agent, Allan Walsh, had been continuous since June 17.

“He's an important piece to our team that I'd like to have back,” Shero had said of Dupuis.

Dupuis figured to have no shortage of suitors as a free agent, but his heart was always with the Penguins and Pittsburgh, where his family preferred to remain.

He is the rare NHL player whose offensive production has improved after his 30th birthday. He has scored 46.3 percent of his career goals (81 of 175) since turning 30 on April 7, 2009.

Crosby, arguably the sport's finest player, has not carried him to elevated production, either. Dupuis has scored 30.2 percent of those goals (25 of 81) in games Crosby has missed because of injury since those two teamed with left winger Chris Kunitz to form the Penguins' top line three years ago.

Statistics worked in Dupuis' favor during negotiations. That was especially true of one particular stat.

Dupuis has averaged 17.3 even-strength goals over the past three seasons.

That number had the attention of management and/or coaches with the Montreal Canadiens and other clubs that could have extended offers in the neighborhood of $4 million annually.

The Penguins could not, but they came close enough that Dupuis was willing to provide a “hometown discount.”

The Penguins have committed about $48.95 million in cap space for nine players after this season.

Dupuis has averaged nearly two shorthanded minutes per game for the past five seasons, leading a penalty-kill attack that has mostly proven a critical component for the Penguins' regular-season winning ways.

As Shero often noted with regards to former center Jordan Staal, “those (penalty-kill) minutes are hard.”

Harder for Shero, perhaps, would have been replacing Dupuis in a dressing room that is tight but lacks someone with his leadership versatility.

Like Crosby, Dupuis leads by example. Like Kunitz, Dupuis knows how to relay the coaches' messages.

Like Evgeni Malkin, Dupuis uses humor to defuse conflict. Like Brooks Orpik, Dupuis is unafraid to publicly demand more accountability.

Unlike anybody since former teammate Sergei Gonchar, Dupuis is a willing mentor to younger players.

That was obvious this season in his dealings with rookies Simon Despres, a defenseman, and Beau Bennett, his potential replacement as Crosby's right winger.

Both players credited Dupuis — for Despres, it was off-ice guidance and support; for Bennett, it was on-ice instruction and pointers — for helping their transition to regular NHL duty.

Shero had said he is aware of all that Dupuis does, and could do, for the Penguins.

To replace Dupuis would have been no easy task. To lose him could have killed several successful dynamics.

Instead, Dupuis can keep talking where he is most comfortable.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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