With the first hurdle out of the way, the Penguins locking up Evgeni Malkin for the next 9 years, now we turn to star winger Pascal Dupuis. Sure, we still have questions about Kris Letang, but he is a less pressing matter at the moment since Dupuis will hit the open market if he is not locked up by July 5th.
So now the question is, what kind of deal will Dupuis be looking for? And can we fit it under the Salary Cap? The report coming out of the Trib (so take it with a grain of salt) is that Dupuis is seeking a 4 year deal, which the Pens are reluctant to consider. Of course I can understand that, Dupuis is already 34 so locking him up until he is 38 is a risky move, especially for some of the figures that have been bandied about. Looking at this season, the NHL website has listed only 15 forwards that are currently 38 or older and still playing in the NHL, out of a list of 549 total forwards. I like Dupuis, and I would love to have him stick around until he is ready to retire, but there aren't many players that are still viable past 35. But, if the price is right, I have no problem risking it.
The problem is that there has been no clear indication of what kind of money to expect. And there aren't an awful lot of players to compare him to. As mentioned previously, there are only 15 forwards who are 38 or older, the age Dupuis will be at the end of his deal if he gets the 4 years he wants. But even expanding that to players that are currently his age or older, we still only have 54 forwards to work with. Of course we can also narrow that list down a bit more, since if we are looking for players who have already signed a contract at Dupuis' current age they would have to be older than him.
Another issue is that while Dupuis skates on the 1st line with Crosby now, he was a Bottom 6 forward for most of his career, and could very well find himself being a 3rd liner again if he were to move to a different team. So how do we determine whether he would have more in common with Top 6 elite scoring wingers or depth defensive forwards if he were to hit the open market? Having read some of the comments about him from non-Pittsburgh sources, it seems that nearly everybody feels that he is a fringe 3rd liner who is riding on Crosby's coattails, and they scoff at the suggestion that he should have been in the running for the Selke. That works in our favor though, because it means his value on the open market should be a lot lower than it is in Pittsburghers' minds. But let's look and see who we can compare him to.
Teemu Selanne is the oldest forward in the NHL, and back when he was Dupuis' age he was missing an entire season due to the lockout. The oldest contract CapGeek lists for him was in 2008-09, when the Salary Cap was much lower ($56.7M) and he was 38. He made $2.625M at that time. However, since then, with a larger Cap, he signed for $4.5M in 2010-11 and $4M in 2011-12. Considering Selanne at this point in his career was still scoring around a point per game, 389 Points in 380 games between the lockout and his 2011-12 extension, means Dupuis is hardly in the same league. In that same time he also had 2 40+ goal seasons, a 30+ goal season, and 2 20+ goals seasons. Dupuis has had 2 20+ goal seasons since the lockout, his most recent two. So Dupuis is no Selanne, and as such shouldn't be getting paid anywhere near $4M per year.
Jaromir Jagr is the next oldest forward, back when he was Dupuis' age he was racking up massive numbers, netting 30 Goals and 96 Points at 34, and another 54 Goals and 123 Points the year before. He then moved on to the KHL for a few years, and came back for the 2011-12 season. That year he earned $3.3M. Considering that he was signed with the assumption that he would still be an elite goal scorer, Dupuis' really isn't in his league either. Of course, Jagr came in and put up similar numbers to Dupuis, but they had no way of knowing his production had fallen off that much at the time of signing him. So it still seems unlikely that Dupuis' worth on the open market would be anywhere near Jagr's $3.3M.
Ray Whitney is next, when he was Dupuis' age he was just over a Point per game and scored 32 Goals. That earned him a $3.55M extension in 2007-08. He followed that up with 3 consecutive 20+ goal seasons, putting up points at a slightly higher pace than Dupuis. Then in 2010-11, a year with a much more similar Cap than what we have now, he got signed by Phoenix, a team notorious for overpaying in order to reach the Cap Floor. They gave him $3M per year. Considering he had been a much more prolific scorer at Dupuis' age and still was putting up slightly higher numbers in the years following, it would seem that $3M may very well be the absolute ceiling for Dupuis's new contract.
Mike Knuble, when he was Dupuis' age he had just signed a contract for $2.8M in 2007-08. That was after scoring 34 goals the season before, as well as a 30+ and a 20+ goal season prior to the lockout. He then followed that up with 5 consecutive 20+ goal seasons, which earned him a $2M contract in 2011-12. Considering the same Salary Cap in 2011-12, similar points and goals as to what Dupuis has put up in the past 2 seasons, and an age around what Dupuis will be if he signs for 4 years, he does present a fairly convincing argument for $2M being fair for a player of Dupuis' calibre.
Daniel Alfredsson, when he was Dupuis' age in 2007-08 scored 40 Goals and 89 Points in just 70 games. In the previous two seasons since the lockout he had also had a 29 Goals season and a 43 Goals season, being well over a point per game both years. At the time he made $4.8M. It was number like that that got him an extension in 2009-10 for 4.875M. Dupuis has never come close to the kind of production that earned Alfredsson that much money, so I can't imagine Dupuis commanding those type of figures on the open market.
Alex Kovalev, when he was Dupuis' age in 2007-08 scored 35 Goals and 84 Points. At the time he was making $4.5M. After another 20+ goal season he got signed for $5M in 2009-10. His production took a steep dive at that point, which is the danger in overpaying for an aging player. He seems more like a cautionary tale rather than a comparable contract situation. Remembering his time with us, I would never compare him to Dupuis.
Steve Sullivan, when he was Dupuis' age in 2008-09 he was putting up slightly above Dupuis-like numbers and making $3.2M. After a couple of injured seasons (in Nashville, another team known to overpay to reach the Cap Floor), he got extended for $3.75M, presumably because they were hoping that if he could stay healthy he could put up numbers like he had in years past. Then he took a HUGE discount in order to come to Pittsburgh to play with the best players in the world, signing for $1.5M. That bodes well for our situation with Dupuis, as many speculate (although I do not agree) that he could get $3M-$4M on the open market. If a player with similar stats (and much higher career numbers) is willing to come to Pittsburgh for a mere $1.5M, it is certainly possible that Dupuis would take a discount to stay too.
Jamal Mayers is a depth player who makes near league minimum, he really doesn't factor into the comparison at all. Although when he was nearly Dupuis' age, he was coming off a career putting up similar numbers to what Dupuis did before the last two seasons and was making $1.3M. So Dupuis, back when he signed for $1.4M and then again when he was extended for $1.5M was making a normal amount for a player of his calibre. So the notion that some people have that its ok to overpay him because it would be rewarding him for being underpaid on his last contract doesn't hold up.
Saku Koivu, when he was Dupuis; age in 2009-10 he was putting up similar number to Dupuis and earning $3.25M per year. He was then extended for $2.5M. He sounds like a pretty reasonable comparison to Dupuis, so $2.5M sounds like a pretty good mid-range value for what to expect from Dupuis on the open market. Although as a Center he probably gets a little overvalued compared to a winger.
Jay Pandolfo, when he was Dupuis' age in 2009-10 was making $2.5M but was bought out because he was not living up to expectations. At the time he had been putting up number similar to Dupuis' pre-2011-12 stats. He then went to the AHL for a year and returned to the NHL making just $1.4M. So this leads me to believe that Dupuis' contract was fair for the type of player he was, but now that he is on the Top Line with Crosby he needs a bit of a bump.
Scott Nichol is a depth player that makes near league minimum, his contract has no bearing on Dupuis.
Todd Bertuzzi, in 2009-10 when he was Dupuis' age was making $1.5M, then signed an extension for $1.9M. He has never bounced back to his pre-lockout stats, but his numbers are fairly similar if slightly lower than Dupuis'. Considering that we have already established that Dupuis should be making more than he does now, it is no surprise.
Vinny Prospal, when he was Dupuis' age in 2009-10 was putting up similar if slightly higher numbers than Dupuis'. At the time he was making $1.15M. He has since signed for $2.48M and $2.5M. So once again we find a player who gives us a pretty good estimate for what the mid-range value of Dupuis on the open market would be.
Martin St. Louis, when he was Dupuis' age in 2009-10 was one of the higher scorers in the league and made $5.25M. He signed an extension in 2011-12 for $5.625M. His production fell off since then, but since the lockout has had a 40+ Goals season, 3 30+ Goal seasons, and 3 20+ Goal seasons, all while usually getting over a point per game. So Dupuis isn't even in the same ballpark.
Jamie Langenbrunner is the last 38+ year old forward (he will be in July) and when he was Dupuis' age in 2009-10 was making $2.8M. At the time he was putting up slightly higher numbers than Dupuis and wound up signing for $2.75M in 2011-12. It gives us one last good example of the higher end of what to expect from Dupuis' value on the open market.
So looking at the 15 players that would be 38 or older, the same age Dupuis would be at the end of his preferred 4-year contract, we get a pretty decent look at what kind of value Dupuis should have on the open market. Judging by similar players, players with stats similar to what Dupuis has put up the past two seasons, we can assume that his average value would be around $2.5M, with an absolute maximum of $3M. There are also a few that are below $2.5M and as low as $2M, so we can assume this would be the range for a home town discount if he chooses to remain in Pittsburgh.Of course I still have 30+ forwards to check out that are between the ages of 34 and 38 to fins other players that signed similar deals at his age.