Pascal Dupuis’ brand-new contract extension with the Penguins – a four-year deal with an average annual value of $3.75 million – was announced just before midnight on Tuesday while his four children were already in bed for the night.
While the kids were still sleeping early the next morning, Dupuis left his offseason home in Blainville, Quebec to go for a bike ride. The little ones woke up while he was gone and Dupuis’ wife Carole-Lyne gave them the good news – that they were going to be staying in Pittsburgh.
“They were really, really jacked up,” Dupuis said of his kids – son Kody and daughters Maeva, Zoe and Lola. “Actually, they were getting a little anxious and nervous to find out what was going to happen. So everybody’s happy. Everybody’s ecstatic at my house. We wanted to be back and it definitely makes sense with the contract that Ray (Shero) offered to not have to test the market and feel comfortable that I’m getting my fair value.”
A FAIR DEAL
Dupuis’ deal makes sense for both sides. It’s the result of, as Dupuis remarked, Penguins general manager Ray Shero really wanting him back and him really wanting to be back – and negotiating accordingly to make that happen.
Dupuis is getting a substantial raise from his previous contracts with Pittsburgh. In his previous two-year deal he had a cap hit of $1.5 million, a mere $100,000 raise from the three-year deal he had signed with Pittsburgh before that.
But that raise is absolutely deserved, as Dupuis continues to improve with age and is coming off the two most successful seasons of his career. He scored a personal-best 25 goals in 2011-12 and netted 20 goals in just 48 games this year (as well as a team-leading seven goals in the playoffs). He plays the right side on the NHL’s best line with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby and has filled the role of that proverbial “winger for Sid” perfectly. Dupuis also brings so many intangibles, like leadership – mentoring his younger teammates – personality and a sense of humor that are all invaluable in the locker room.
And though Dupuis probably could have made even more if he had decided to test the market, Shero still offered him a fair salary – and he accepted.
But the money, though important, was not the deal-breaker in this case. What was most important to Dupuis was the contract length, and though Shero characteristically does not give terms longer than two or three years to older, veteran players, the general manager moved in Dupuis’ direction to give him well-earned security and stability for himself and his family.
“Ray gave me that fourth year, that was a game-breaker for me,” Dupuis explained. “I’m 34, I’ll be 38 years old when this deal is going to be all done. It was, I think, a big step.”
And so the parties agreed on a deal that was signed just 15 minutes before Dupuis could have began negotiating with other teams even though free agency doesn’t start until Friday, which is a new addition to the current collective bargaining agreement.
“I could have gone on the market and get maybe – I say maybe – a little more,” Dupuis said. “But what I have in Pittsburgh, the relationship with everybody on the staff, with my neighbors, with my kids’ friends, with my kids’ school, it weighed quite a bit in my decision. And the way the fans have been treating me in the last couple years, it’s been unreal. I definitely wanted to be back, and get a taste of that for another four years. You know me. I’m a Pittsburgh guy.”
As we spoke to Dupuis on the phone, we could hear his children in the background close by as their father talked about how much he loves raising his family in this city.
The Dupuis family genuinely adores living here, and they have become part of the fabric of this community. While hockey is the reason they came here and it’s of course the main reason why they stayed, their life away from the rink and the people that are in it has become very special to them.
“Pittsburgh is the kind of place where if you grew up in Pittsburgh, you may leave for a couple years to go to college or to go work somewhere else, but it seems like people find a way to come back,” Dupuis explained. “And find a way to live the rest of their life in Pittsburgh and cheer for their home teams and (because they) want to be with their families and their friends that they grew up with.
“I’m almost a Pittsburgher now. I have friends away from hockey that I want to spend some more moments with them.”
Knowing that Carole-Lyne and the kids are so comfortable here allows Dupuis to focus on his career and play the way he has been for the Penguins. It all ties in together for him.
“I did it a little selfishly for myself hockey-wise, but you know me, I thought about my wife and kids and the comfort level that we have,” he said. “Just going to the rink every day and knowing that my wife and kids are happy, definitely makes me perform the way I can on the ice.”
And then when he does come to the rink, he’s with his other family – his adopted brothers.
“It’s an easy transition,” Dupuis said. “For me, I’m the kind of guy that wants to be home, wants to play baseball or soccer in the backyard with my kids or just hang out and play with them outside. At the same time, when I get to the rink, I know I’m going to enjoy the guys that are there. I know when I’m going to go on the road, I’ll have friends that I’m going to hang out with and go for dinner with and be as comfortable as I could be with a bunch of buddies. I think I get the best of both worlds. I get the great life at home, but when I’m on the road, these guys are who I want to hang out with.”
FOUR MORE YEARS
Shero gave a 34-year-old veteran a four-year contract because that 34-year-old veteran is playing hockey that would be considered impressive at any age.
What’s Dupuis’ secret? Adjusting with the times and simply taking care of himself.
“It’s all about clean living,” he said. “The way I’ve been training, the way I’ve been taking care of my body the last little while, it has paid off on the ice. I’ve played pretty much every game but one the last three years and the one that I missed was for the birth of my daughter. I think what I’m doing is good for me and I’ll do the same this summer.”
Dupuis has come a long way his first professional hockey season with the now-defunct Cleveland Lumberjacks of the now-defunct IHL back in 2000 and didn’t know the language or the culture. At restaurants, Dupuis didn’t understand the dinner menus when the team went out and felt bad asking for translations. He chose instead to simply tell the server that he would have the same thing that the person next to him had ordered.
Now, he is a Stanley Cup winner, an invaluable member of the Penguins organization and a team leader who just signed the biggest contract of his career to continue playing alongside Crosby and Evgeni Malkin every night in front of sellout crowds in a beautiful arena and a beautiful city.
But Dupuis tries not to think about his career that way. He has always prided himself on playing the same way over the years, and nothing – not even a whole lot of money in this deal – is going to change that.
“I’m going to be the same guy, the same hockey player,” he said. “My life is not going to change. All I did was take care of my wife, my kids, myself, our future after hockey. My hockey game and the way I’ll approach every game and every year is definitely not going to change. It’s just a comfort level away from the rink that we’ll get after all of the hockey stuff is said and done.”