Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis will be out for at least the next six months while he takes blood thinners to combat a blood clot in his lung. The Pens unfortunately have grown accustomed to dealing with such scenarios regarding their team.
The team’s first concern is with Dupuis’ health and his family.
But for general manager Jim Rutherford, associate GM Jason Botterill and head coach Mike Johnston, their job is to fill the void left by Dupuis.
Here’s how Dupuis’ absence will affect the team. WHAT’S AHEAD FOR DUPUIS
Dupuis will be on blood thinners for at least the next six months. That means he cannot participate in any type of contact sport that may cause bleeding. However, he can remain active by working out and keeping his conditioning up.
Six months from now would be mid-May. If the Pens make a deep playoff run and Dupuis’ blood clot subsides, there is an outside chance that he could return to the team. That is an optimistic view. In the meantime though, the team has to prepare as if Dupuis is not an option. WHAT’S LOST
Dupuis is a top-6 winger and a member of arguably the best line in hockey with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby. He’s been a highly productive offensive player. Dupuis registered 20 goals in two of the past three seasons – the season he didn’t was last year when his season was cut short due to an ACL/MCL sprain.
The Pens’ lineup will also be a step slower as Dupuis, despite being 35 years old, is one of the fastest players on the team.
Dupuis is also one of their more reliable defensive players, receiving votes in the past for the NHL's best defensive forward. He is a key penalty killer and a huge reason why the Pens’ PK has killed 49 of the last 51 times shorthanded.
Inside the locker room Dupuis is one of the team’s top leaders. His energy and smile are contagious. He keeps the room loose with his loud and funny personality. Dupuis is a guy that will speak his mind and motivate his teammates. He’s taken several players under his tutelage and can lead by example. As big of an on-ice asset Dupuis is, he may be a bigger asset in the room. ON-ICE
For the time being, Blake Comeau will likely slot into Dupuis’ spot with Kunitz and Crosby. He filled that role Tuesday night in Montreal. Whether Comeau is a short-term or long-term solution remains to be seen.
Looking at the farm, the Penguins also have Andrew Ebbett and Jayson Megna playing well in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Both players have spent portions of the season in Pittsburgh and have NHL experience. They could be options to play on the top line or they may join the team for depth purposes since the Penguins are currently carrying only 12 forwards.
Another player that could be considered is Jean-Sebastien Dea, who has 11 points (4G-7A) in 15 games with WBS. He had a strong training camp and preseason, and he could be an option down the road.
Dupuis will be placed on long-term IR, giving the Pens some cap relief. The extra cap space gives Pittsburgh a few options in acquiring a player – whether via free agent signing or trade.
Penguins management, scouts and coaches will talk soon regarding each and every scenario and will decide the best path to move forward. OFF-ICE
While Dupuis is taking blood thinners, he can still be active. So there is a chance that he could be around the team in the weight room, in the locker room and at games.
The Pens certainly want Dupuis to be a presence around the team. When Rutherford returns from the GM meetings in Toronto he will sit down with Dupuis and discuss what can be done to keep Dupuis around and a part of the team.
It would no doubt be difficult for Dupuis to be around hockey everyday and not be able to play. But it is probably more difficult to be away from the sport that he loves and his teammates.
What role Dupuis could serve remains to be seen. But there’s no doubt the players, coaches and management would love to have a guy of his character and leadership around the team.