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Pens Have Decisions to Make Regarding Roster

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pascal Dupuis left the Penguins facilities today for the summer, and he doesn’t want it to be for good.

The Penguins winger is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5, but his priority is to re-sign with Pittsburgh and get a deal done that brings him back here in the fall.

“Obviously I want to stay a Pittsburgh Penguin,” he said. “I’ve said it before, my wife and kids love it around here. I have friends away from the hockey world that I want to be part of their lives still. I want to be back here.”

Like a fine wine, Dupuis just seems to get better with age.

The now 34-year-old Dupuis signed a two-year deal two summers ago, and both seasons of his last contract have been arguably the best of his career.

He scored a career-high 25 goals (eight of those game-winners and all of them coming at even strength) and 59 points in 82 games last season, then followed that up by netting 20 goals and 48 points in this lockout-shortened 48-game season.

Dupuis has been productive playing right wing on a line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, the best line in the NHL this year, and one that has been together for the better part of four seasons. But not only has Dupuis excelled at being that “winger for Sid,” he’s an integral part of Pittsburgh’s penalty kill and a valuable locker room leader.

So if Dupuis went to the open market, he would absolutely deserve a considerable raise from his current salary of $1.5 million. But the veteran forward would be open to signing for less to stay here if that’s what the situation ends up being considering the salary cap and other players needing to sign as well.

“I’ve done it before, for the same reasons,” he said. “We’ll see what happens this time around. But I definitely want to be back here.”

Dupuis’ desire to stay is apparent, and he made that clear to Penguins general manager Ray Shero in their meeting on Sunday. Dupuis hopes the team’s desire to keep him is just as strong.

“Met with Ray this morning, they definitely have stuff to talk about themselves,” said Dupuis, who added that there was no discussion of numbers or length of contract in the meeting. “But hopefully we’ll get to an agreement.

“I just know there’s a lot of guys that need to get re-signed. All I can control is what I’m going to do for a little while and they probably do have a plan already. We’ll see if I’m in it. ... (Ray) knows what I bring. He knows what I can do. I've been here for a while. He knows my personality. He knows pretty much all about me as a hockey player, so I don't think I need to sell myself to him. It's a matter of agreeing on numbers.”

Other players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency for the Penguins are Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Douglas Murray and Mark Eaton. Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey and Robert Bortuzzo will be restricted free agents.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Iginla said. “It’s been very positive and would be open (to re-signing). Even though we didn’t win, it was a great experience.”

Looking even further ahead, however, there are a number of players – including two stars in Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang – whose contracts are set to expire at the end of next season, which means they can begin negotiating extensions on July 5.

Malkin did not speak to the media on the last day of player availability, but Letang did. And when the defenseman was asked if he wanted to sign a long-term deal and remain in Pittsburgh, he responded, “Yeah, of course,” continuing, “having the chance to play with the organization first, as I think the best organization in the league, and having the chance to play with a guy like Crosby every year, I think it’s pretty special.”

But, as Letang cautioned, it’s not entirely up to him whether or not a deal gets done this summer. If it does not, the plan is to return to Pittsburgh in the fall ready to play the 2013-14 season.

Letang currently has a cap hit of $3.5 million, and like Dupuis, would very likely command a substantial raise on the open market considering that players comparable to him, like Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, make around $7 million per year.

“It’s out of my control,” he said. “It’s all the management, coaches, Ray. They’re going to have to make decisions and I’m just going to show up ready for another season.

“I’m enjoying every moment that I’m in this organization. I want to be here. For me, from hearing from all of the other players, it’s the best organization in the league.”

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