We already did a season breakdown for Craig Adams, and the consensus seemed to be to keep the hard-working 4th liner, provided the price is right.
What about the highest paid forward set to be an unrestricted free agent? Well, other than Alex Kovalev anyways, who you can say with ease will not be back. This free agent, however, figures to command more interest league wide, it's Pascal Dupuis.
A more versatile forward on the team probably didn't exist in 2010-11. You name the line, the position and the situation and Dupuis probably could fill it. 1st line, 2nd line, 3rd line; left wing, right wing; even strength, four-on-four, penalty kill, two man PK; Dupuis can line up any number of these places and give an honest effort and be a competent player.
The raw stats as a Penguin are passable, but certainly not pretty:
A look at the future of Dupuis, after the jump..
Dupuis found himself as a common linemate to Sidney Crosby, but interestingly take a look at Dupers' stats through January 5th (the portion of the season Crosby played) and the post-Crosby part of the season
With Sid: 40 games, 8 goals, 10 assists, 18 points
W/Out Sid: 41 gp, 9g, 10a, 19p
Virtually indentical numbers, which isn't all that surprising considering for all Dupuis is-- a good forechecker, excellent positional player with good foot-speed -- the thing he is not is particularly skilled with the puck with his passing or getting accurate shots to net consistently. So even with the most productive player in the game, Dupuis' stat-line did not benefit one bit.
If anything this shows that Dupuis ought not to play on a scoring line ever again. He was pressed in there by circumstance as the best all-around winger on the team, but as the team hopefully develops/trades for more top six forwards like James Neal and Eric Tangradi, Dupuis role will go down.
There still should be a need for Dupuis; the only signed Penguin forwards adept at penalty killing are Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke. Retaining Dupuis would certainly be a way to keep that unit strong. Dupuis, at 32, is also quickly becoming one of the more veteran players in the league and he's also a good "room guy" that is a respected and valued member of what still is (age wise) a relatively young core.
But the question, as always, is at what cost to retain him? Given Dupuis age, this is probably the last chance he will get to sign a multi-year deal at the peak of his earning power. The same traits that endear Pittsburgh to Dupuis will also draw suitors in free agency. Pens GM Ray Shero has not been afraid to let lower line players slide away if the market offers a contract too long or rich for Pittsburgh to match, with a guy like Jarkko Ruutu being a prime example of that.
There's also the matter of internal competition- the Pens only have so much salary cap space and a finite number of roster spots too. Might they be more inclined to sign fellow impending UFA Max Talbot- a player who brings many of Dupuis qualities at a younger age and probable friendlier salary? As the chips have fallen, unfortunately, it seems unlikely Pittsburgh retains both Talbot and Dupuis. Combined, both of them will command too much term and money to slot into the salary structure that Shero's established in locking so many big dollar players in long-term deals.
Now for the discussion- what's your breaking point for Dupuis, if Shero were to approach him before July 1 to work a deal out? At what amount (salary and years) do you think the Pens are better off passing? And if it came down to Talbot or Duper, whom would you pick and why? Would it be worth it to pay Dupuis a little more than Talbot?