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Friday, November 21, 2014

Trying to Replace Pascal Dupuis by @PandaPSU

Pascal Dupuis inevitably cracking another joke (Photo courtesy
When the news came out Wednesday that Pascal Dupuis would be out at least 6 months with a blood clot in his lung, fans were filled with a mixed bag of emotions. First, their hearts went out to Dupuis and his family. This would be a long road back for anyone, and it's especially true for a professional athlete with dreams of playing again. Second, fans thought about how much this organization has been through over the past 12+ months. The Penguins family has had to endure similar blood clot issues with Tomas Vokoun, a stroke from Kris Letang, Thyroid cancer with Olli Maatta, and now this. These are not things that go through player's minds when they look into the future of their careers. After all of the more important dust settled though, the big question remained - how do the Penguins replace Pascal Dupuis?

Jim Rutherford has made it no secret that the Penguins would be looking for a top-six forward this season through a trade, and that was before Dupuis was placed on LTIR this week. Now that becomes more important than ever, but let's make no mistake about it... while the Penguins will miss his on ice contributions, and there are plenty to list, they will miss his off ice contributions much more. The intangibles. The things that are hard to quantify by stats on or even advanced stats. For a team that has all the firepower it needs to win a Stanley Cup but has consistently come up short since 2009, these attributes mean all that much more. A great article by Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that sums up Dupuis' reach off of the ice yields many great quotes from past and current teammates. The one that struck me the most came from Chris Kunitz:
“The locker room stuff is where you really miss him. The guy on the planes and hanging out at dinners, making fun of situations when we’re not feeling as confident as we need to as a group. I think that’s the friendship part of what [Dupuis] brings to the team and the leadership stuff.”
The part of particular note in there for me - making fun of situations when we're not feeling as confident as we need to as a group - does that sound like the Rangers series last year? Those are the situations when a presence like Dupuis' is immeasurable and hard to gauge. So where do the Penguins go from here?

Many folks will want to shoot for the moon with a trade partner. Names that have already swirled are recycled names from last season - Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, & James Van Riemsdyk - to name a few. While those names are enticing to me for a multitude of reasons, the fact is that any trade involving a name like the few just mentioned will hurt. What I mean by that is the Penguins will have to give to get. The organization will not be able to acquire a 23-year-old Evander Kane for prospects and draft picks. The Jets will want a combination of playable pieces and pieces for the future. Even though the Penguins now have a little over $4 million in cap space, a player will still need to be moved in order to secure a larger contract for a player in the prior examples. I have no doubt in my mind the Penguins will make a move for a younger winger, but I would like to see them pursue a player who is currently homeless -- Ray Whitney.

Gary Roberts 2006-07 (Photo courtesy of

Folks may laugh at me for suggesting Ray Whitney, but the Penguins have had good success with this model in the recent past. Gary Roberts was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2006-07 season and was a leader on and off the ice to a young group of Penguins. Getting him on the team for Noah Welch was a low risk proposition for the Penguins.

Bill Guerin 2008-09 (Photo courtesy of
Who can forget the Billy Guerin trade in the 2008-09 season? Ray Shero acquired Guerin from the Islanders for a conditional draft pick (I think it ended up being a fourth round pick). Again, this was another low-risk option for a club in need of a winger for Crosby and a vocal leader. Does anyone really think the Penguins take home the cup in 2009 without Guerin? This quote from Guerin in an ESPN article sums up his playing time in Pittsburgh perfectly:

"I'll just go in and be myself. I've always been a vocal guy, not afraid to say anything ... They get you for a specific reason. The best thing you can do is be yourself and support the leadership they have there"
Ray Whitney last season in Dallas (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)
As I mentioned, it is clear the Penguins need to bring someone to the club. It is possible they may need to make multiple moves, but I like the team trying a low-risk option like Whitney first before they decide to trade someone like Paul Martin away for wingers. It is clear the Penguins have a ton of defensive depth in their system. It is not clear whether any of those pieces are ready for primetime. If the team trades away an essential piece to a cup run in Paul Martin for more scoring and the team loses, did they really accomplish anything? Ray Whitney is currently sitting in his home in Arizona. No matter what, this will be his last season. At 42 years of age, maybe he comes to the club and it doesn't work out. If that is the case, the Penguins are exactly where they are today and can still make a move later this season. If it does work out, it could be another case where an established veteran comes to Pittsburgh for a bit of a rekindled youth. In the case of "the Wizard", Ray Whitney, his off-ice leadership and demeanor would go a long way to help replace the magic that was lost two days ago in Dupuis.

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