Kyle Dubas met with the media on April 19 following his first season as Penguins President of Hockey Operations and General Manager.

Last summer, the goal was to try and provide a boost to the group after missing the playoffs by one point in the 2022.23 campaign. They dug themselves a hole early, started to make their way out of it, but then they struggled from mid-January through the end of March, where the Penguins finished 8-1-3 before getting eliminated.

“I think that’s the stretch that has us here today and not getting ready to play in the playoffs,” Dubas said.

Dubas said the press conference may not provide all the answers that everyone wants or wonders about, because he views this time as pivotal, with exit meetings with the players, meetings with the coaches, and all of the department heads that have to be used to inform the decisions of where they go throughout the summer.

“I think you all have a good idea from what we did at the trade deadline that we need to reposition where the team has been, really, for the last couple of decades,” Dubas said. “Justifiably the team, for a long time, has been pushing to move assets in an attempt to win, and the team has won here three times and been in contention far longer than that. But we need to reposition the way we go about it. We started to do that, started to replenish the assets that we have in an attempt to not be sitting here two days after the regular season and having year-end news conferences and meetings.”

Dubas spoke for 40 minutes – here are the most relevant points from the session.

Kyle Dubas speaks with the media


Most, if not all, of the players were asked during their locker cleanout day on Thursday if the strong finish to the season gives them confidence moving forward into next year. As for whether it changes Dubas’ approach this summer in any way, he said he doesn’t want to get too caught up in the rollercoaster.

“(From early November to mid-January), we were a playoff team. Mid-January, February, March, that was not a playoff team at all. That was a team that was going high lottery the way that we were playing then. And then in April, we were a contender,” Dubas said. “A year like that, you're going to have ups and downs in a year, but to go so starkly between very much a playoff team and a non-playoff team, we kind of touched it all throughout the year – and in the end, that gets you exactly where we are today.”

Being on the bubble for two years in a row is not a place to be, so Dubas reiterated that the plan is to replenish the prospects and the draft capital, and then start to build towards being a contending team “that everyone in this room and in this city expects and has gotten used to. So, that's really the only goal for me here, and I knew that coming in – that this was this was all going to be part of it. It's a matter of how quickly can we get it there? You can quickly get it there for a short stretch. It's how quickly can we get it there for a long stretch, where we're back in that mix.”

Dubas’ focus is on the Metro Division, since that who they’re fighting with for playoff positioning.

“So, as of this moment, we're fifth best,” Dubas said. “New Jersey, I think, having an off year. They're going to get right back at it again next season. You had a President's Trophy winner in the Rangers, an elite team right at that same level in Carolina, they're probably not going anywhere. So, we have to position ourselves to get back up there, surpass them as they as they go through their various cycles as well.”

Dubas has talked about the core group – highlighted by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Erik Karlsson – helping to lead the next great Penguins team as the organization looks to get younger. He had a great answer to a question that boiled down to there not being a lot of teams who have had a quick turnaround after missing the playoffs two years in a row:

“I would disagree that there aren’t examples of teams where it hasn't taken long. I think when this team started contending, LA wasn’t contending yet. Then they won twice, then they missed the playoffs, acquired some high picks, now they’re a contender again. That’s my opinion of LA, I think they’re a very good team. The Rangers were contending when the Penguins were contending. The Rangers went through their own pivot, we’ll call it, and now they just won the Presidents Trophy. So, I think that when people say they want to rebuild, what they really mean by that is a full-on scorched earth, try to project who the No. 1 is going to be in 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028, say ‘it’s going to work out, we’re gonna get them all and then we’re gonna to be great again.’ My view of that is that there are more examples of late of teams that contended when this team was contending, that have pivoted in short order to replenishing their younger group of assets, whether that’s prospects, picks, players and then turning quickly while those key members of their group were still there. LA – Kopitar, Doughty. The Rangers, you can go through the group, but Kreider, Zibanejad, those guys were there when they were good. But they’ve also transitioned quickly throughout trades they made, picks they made. I think the easy answer when you’re up here is to say, OK, we’re just going to rip it all the way down and it’s going to require patience and it’s going to be painful.’ If that’s the right course, there are organizations that have done that well. I think here with our group that we have, it would be foolish not to try to get those younger players in snd around those players like Sid, like Kris Letang, like Bryan Rust – people who come in every single day and operate at an extremely high level and get the most out of themselves. That’s the way I view it, but we haven’t gone through our full breakdown of the year, where we want to go, how we stack up against the other teams in our division next year, the year after, where those teams are at in their own cycle and how can we surpass them? I’ve love to be able to give clear-cut answers right now, but I think that’ll become more clear as we get towards the draft and free agency.”


Speaking of Sidney Crosby, Dubas is well aware that contract talks are going to be a big talking point this summer, with the captain entering the last season of his deal.

“I know everyone will want answers, but it's imperative that (discussions) are kept private between Sid, myself and (agent) Pat Brisson,” Dubas said.

“In regards to his meaning to the team and what the intention is, I think it's always been clear, I think he should finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. How long that is? I'm not going to put any limits on Sidney Crosby. He's capable of great things and still performing at an extraordinarily high level, not only in games but every single day, his energy level and passion for it doesn't decrease. He's the type of person that's always trying to add new things, even at this age. He's not about maintaining. He's about continuing to find new levels. So I think he's a special person in that regard.”


As for the goaltending situation with Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic, Dubas reiterated the context surrounding it. Jarry was scheduled to play in the first half of a back-to-back on April 1 at Madison Square Garden. But he became violently ill, and was nowhere near ready to play the next night in New Jersey.

“Ned did what every player wants to in that spot – he takes that opportunity and runs with it,” Dubas said. “I think the easy thing to say now is, and I don’t begrudge it, what does that say about Tristan?”

Dubas said when zooming out and looking at Jarry’s whole season, Tristan would be the first to say he wanted to be better and has to be better moving forward into the second year of his five-year contract.

“I think every player that gets in these spots in their career, it can be a real inflection point, and he has to make the decision on how he wants to respond next year,” Dubas said. “There’s obviously doubt, there’s questions. I don’t think that’s necessarily just because of his play. It’s because of the fact at this point of the year, when he got sick, Ned stepped in and ran with it. So, I’m excited to see how Tristan responds, because that’s what this is really all about, how guys like that are able to push back when things don’t go their way.”

As for Nedeljkovic, Dubas was thrilled to see him succeed after signing a one-year deal with Pittsburgh.

“With Ned, I think all year, everyone has talked how he’s a great person, great work ethic, great motor,” Dubas said. “He’s competed his butt off through the year, especially when our team wasn’t playing really well down that stretch in March. He showed up every day and worked, both goalies did, so it was nice to see him, especially, get rewarded. Because he had a couple of tough years before coming in here, and I think he really won the respect of everyone in the room.”

Dubas said Nedeljkovic has been vocal about his views on coming back, saying he would love to return to Pittsburgh. Dubas told him yesterday that they have a situation where the Penguins have a young goaltender who is pushing in Joel Blomqvist. Pittsburgh’s 2020 second-round pick has had a terrific first season in North America. The Penguins want to use this next stretch of weeks to see how Blomqvist performs, particularly in the playoffs with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

"How does Joel play, can he assert himself at that level? And then we will have more information on how we want to go ahead with our goaltending,” Dubas said.


Kyle Dubas acknowledged that Ryan Graves’ first season in Pittsburgh didn’t go as hoped, but they’re hoping the big defenseman will have a strong summer that will set him up for success next year.

“His strength, which will allow him to I think be more physical and make stops in the defensive zone; his mobility, as he’ll be 29 to start next year – he's going to have to really push and work on that,” Dubas said. “But we have to arm him with the path to get there, and then he has to execute it relentlessly. And if he can do that, he's going to get back to being the player that he was when we signed him. But it's going to be up to him in the summer to execute that and come into camp and be ready to roll. It falls in the same bucket as Tristan.”

Dubas was asked to evaluate all of the players who wrapped up their first years with the Penguins, whether they were brought in via trade or free agency. Here’s what he had to say:

Erik Karlsson: I thought at the end of the year, he showed exactly why you acquire Erik Karlsson. He skated, took charge, shot the puck rather than try to slap pass it through five people every time – which he and I have had many discussions about, and became awfully effective because he kept the defense off balance, defended harder. Still needs to come in that way. He's going to be in his mid-30s, massive summer to maintain his level and improve it and next year rolling. But I think he got on his way, like the rest of the group overall at the same time, and a little bit too late. So, but wouldn't change anything with him at all. I think he’s going to be able to play at a high level for a long time.

Lars Eller: I think everything we signed and asked for, he brought. Not the sexiest role you'd want in hockey, defensive zone starts, penalty kill, giving shelter to the big guys above, did so consistently and reliably. Also chipped in about the offense that you'd want from the role, probably a little bit more, and was good. Really good.

Noel Acciari: A less sexier role than Lars in that I think he might have started more shifts in the defensive zone than almost anybody. So, I get a little defensive when people get on him about his offense, because it's hard. And when you're in that role, heavy penalty kill, playing with a wide range of different linemates game in and game out and being still expected to execute that heavy defensive role, it's tough. That's a guy that puts his body and every part of it on the line for the team every single night, excellent penalty killer. If we gave him more offensive opportunity, he would produce more and he's shown that in his career. I think he had 20 goals one year with Florida. That’s Noel. We need to help him stay healthier. But the way he plays and the way he puts it on the line, especially defensively, shot blocking, physicality, probably you have to count on him missing some time. But the staff everything they could this year to keep them healthy.

Reilly Smith: Great start to the year with Geno and Raks, especially when Raks wasn't going well. Then from mid-November on, Raks was hurt, Geno wasn't as good, and I thought that affected Reilly. Very different linemates than what he played with in Vegas, Marchessault and Karlsson, so big adaptation for him. Then he got hurt himself in January, and then I felt he was better after the trade deadline. With Bunts going into that role on the second line, I thought that really helped the second line a lot. Drew went up with Sid and Rusty and I thought he helped them a lot. Certainly maintained their level that they were at with Jake. Then, I thought that let us put Reilly with Lars and Puusty, and I thought that was a better fit for Reilly, to kind of get him back up and rolling. Yesterday in talking to him, he knows he wasn't as good as he was last year. Certainly, he was an excellent player on a Stanley Cup-winning team. But I think if you look at his history, I would expect a big bounceback from him next season.


There are always questions surrounding a team’s coaching staff when the group falls short of expectations, but Dubas said in the end, the responsibility for how the year ended is on him.

“Everyone that’s in place here is in place because I’ve either brought them here or have elected to keep them here,” he said. “So, I take the responsibility for the fact that we’re sitting here today and not in the playoffs and that we had that stretch where we really cost ourselves that chance.”

Having said that, it’s Dubas’ job to evaluate all of the groups and systems they have in place, and decide whether they have the right people in place to get the Penguins where they want to go.

“(Mike Sullivan) and I will meet continually about the staff, go through each staff member, whether they’re the right fit for our group or not, and then evaluate whether we want to make any changes,” Dubas said. “But I think what I will say about the coaching staff is the amount of work that all of them respectively put in throughout the year, their efforts, their push to change and evaluate the way we were playing, especially when it wasn’t going well. Todd (Reirden), Mike (Vellucci), Ty (Hennes), Andy Chiodo, Madison Nikkel and CJ D’Alimonte – they were unrelenting in their push and quest to try to bring us back. It wasn’t for a lack of effort on their part at all.”


Finally, Dubas finished up with some housekeeping items.

He said Kris Letang, who had a number of maintenance days to end the year, “was going to get a second opinion on all that ails him, which is significant. He's played with it the whole year, but it's likely going to head that way, and then we'll have an update once he makes a decision one way or the other on it.”

After undergoing laparoscopic surgery to his right knee in January, Matt Nieto – who signed a two-year deal last summer – did not return to play for the rest of the season. “I don't know if I've ever felt as bad for somebody throughout the year just in terms of the amount of work he put in, and every time he would put the work in, he would have a setback,” Dubas said. “Obviously had a successful surgery, then in him coming back, sustained another injury. He’s going to go next week for kind of another and final opinion on what the future is in terms of whether he's going to rehab or have another operation, and we'll have an update there on him.”