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Dubas-ification of Penguins begins: Jason Spezza named Pittsburgh assistant GM

A face familiar to Kyle Dubas has joined the Pens front office

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins made an expected hire today, as the takeover of Kyle Dubas continues:

Spezza was a special assistant to Dubas last year in Toronto, as he transitioned out of a 20-year playing career and into the front office. Shortly after Dubas was relieved of duties with the Maple Leafs last month, Spezza resigned from his position and was seen as likely to land wherever Dubas popped up next. That happened to be Pittsburgh, so now here Spezza is.

From the team release:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have named Jason Spezza as assistant general manager, it was announced today by President of Hockey Operations Kyle Dubas.

Spezza will report directly to Dubas, and assist club management in all hockey operations departments.

“After a decorated playing career, Jason fully immersed himself on the management side of the game learning all facets of hockey operations this past season while with Toronto,” said Dubas. “He showed tremendous work ethic, curiosity, and ability to build relationships throughout all departments at the team facility. His move from the roster to the front office staff also helped make the hockey operations department, coaching staff and playing roster a more cohesive and collaborative unit. We are thrilled to have Jason join the Pittsburgh Penguins today as he will add a great perspective to our Club, and we are excited to watch him reach his potential in management.”

Spezza, who retired from a 19-year NHL career in 2022, spent last season with Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs as the special assistant to the general manager. In his previous role, he spent time with all hockey operations departments including player personnel, player development, minor league operations and hockey research and development. Spezza helped guide the Maple Leafs to their first playoff series victory since the 2003-04 campaign.

Other than the coaching staff, the front office still has some holdovers from previous regimes in player development (headed by Tom Kostopoulous, a long-time member of the Pens organization) and the amateur scouting department.

Dubas has made some changes, moving on from three Ron Hextall era signings last week. Bringing in Spezza will help replace some of that and add to the front office, and gives Dubas someone to work with and off of that he clearly is very comfortable with and wants to have around.

Dubas indicated he is only the “interim” general manager at his introductory press conference, however as seen with Spezza as an assistant GM, the titles don’t matter that much. It’s Kyle Dubas’s shop in Pittsburgh.