It stinks, and we certainly wish Pascal Dupuis all the best things in the world, but the NHL season isn't going to stop The Pittsburgh Penguins still have to play on Friday night. Saturday too. And on after that.
With Dupuis out for at least the next six months, where does that leave the Pens?
Not in a great spot, to be sure. Dupuis is an incredibly versatile and valuable player on the team, and at $3.375 million, well worth his salary. He can play 2nd line left wing with Evgeni Malkin, or 1st line right wing with Sidney Crosby, where he's scored the bulk of his 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) this season. Dupuis produces with only garbage time on the power play, but plays 2:10 a night (4th among forwards) on the penalty kill unit.
According to capgeek the Pens now, have $4.1 million in space under the salary cap after confirming that they will place Dupuis on the long-term injured reserve list. So while it's not great to be without the man they call Super Duper, Pittsburgh is at least afforded the financial flexibility to have more options than they otherwise might have.
The best choices moving forward for the Pens right now probably are:
Call up Megna
Jayson Megna isn't going to make anyone forget about Pascal Dupuis, or replace him entirely, but with 8 goals in 15 AHL games this season (including a bunch lately), Megna is probably the best option on the farm right now to see NHL time. Megna has speed and was able to score 5 goals and 4 assists in 36 games in the NHL last season, so it's not out of the question that he can't add something to the NHL lineup.
Play up Bennett
Beau Bennett has played 4 games this season (cue injury joke) and has found a home with Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie on the suddenly impressive 3rd line. But the Penguins now have a huge hole in their top 6 and Bennett, a skill player, would figure to be a fit on a line with Crosby or Malkin. The time is now for Bennett to make the most of this opportunity.
Hope Comeau keeps it up
With 4 goals and 5 assists in the first 16 games of the season, Blake Comeau has been one of the biggest pleasant surprises on the team this year. Signed mainly as a depth forward to forecheck and add energy, Comeau, a former 20 goal scorer with the Islanders, has shown some production too. Is he a full-time top six option? Probably not. But Crosby and Malkin have won scoring titles with unimpressive wingers before, and Comeau at least does add a physical presence and is veteran enough to know where to go and what to do.
Make a trade
The Penguins, solidly in first place, can't and won't just go out and make some desperate deal. They're not playing Xbox and don't need to go out and make something happen this afternoon. However, with less than ideal options to replace a valuable player in Dupuis, the team might need to look outside of the fold to eventually strengthen them for the playoffs. Hopefully by virtue of not being desperate and HAVING to make a deal, they won't end up making a regretful trade.
No situation is probably ideal, and in a long season the Penguins will probably have to hope for multiple players to replace the versatile Dupuis who adds a lot to the team at even strength and on the penalty kill.