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Penguins hire Dubas as president of hockey operations

Lance McMillan / Toronto Star / Getty

The Pittsburgh Penguins named Kyle Dubas their new president of hockey operations on Thursday.

The 37-year-old executive replaces Brian Burke, who was fired in April after the Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06, Sidney Crosby's rookie season.

Dubas is tasked with establishing a strategic vision and philosophy for the Penguins.

"Throughout his career, Kyle has proven himself as a forward-thinking hockey mind and embodies all of the qualities - integrity, intelligence, and an unwavering commitment to building a winning culture - that we value in a leader at the Penguins," Fenway Sports Group principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner said in a statement.

"We have done exhaustive work narrowing down candidates throughout this process, but it did not take long to be impressed by Kyle, the reputation he's cultivated for himself in and around the National Hockey League, and his vision for the organization on and off the ice."

Pittsburgh is still in need of a general manager after firing Ron Hextall. The Maple Leafs replaced Dubas with Brad Treliving on Wednesday.

Dubas said Thursday during his introductory press conference that he'll serve as interim general manager and that the search for a new candidate may have to wait until July.

The Maple Leafs made the playoffs in each of Dubas' five campaigns as general manager, but they only advanced past the opening round once. He and the team parted ways after the Florida Panthers bounced the Leafs from the second round.

Dubas was aggressive leading up to the 2023 trade deadline, acquiring the likes of Ryan O'Reilly, Noel Acciari, and Luke Schenn to help the Leafs win their first playoff series since 2004.

During an end-of-season press conference in May, Dubas became emotional as he addressed the toll the Maple Leafs' campaign took on his family.

"I definitely don't have it in me to go anywhere else," he said at the time. "It'll either be here or it'll be taking time to recalibrate and reflect on the seasons here. You won't see me next week pop up elsewhere; I can't put (my family) through that after this year."

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said watching Dubas' press conference created a "dramatic shift" in his thinking and ultimately derailed extension talks.

Dubas conceded Thursday that he might have been "too honest that day," per Sportsnet's Luke Fox.

Toronto amassed a record of 221-109-42 and a .651 points percentage during Dubas' time at the helm.

Dubas is joining a Pittsburgh squad that has won three Stanley Cup championships with its current core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.

"I heard a lot of people skeptical of the team's ability to contend," Dubas said, according to team beat reporter Michelle Crechiolo. "The way I view it is, if people want to bet against (head coach) Mike Sullivan, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and others, they can go ahead and do so.

"But I'm going to bet on them, and go with them."

One of the biggest questions facing the Penguins is goaltender Tristan Jarry, who's a pending unrestricted free agent.

Jarry battled injuries in 2022-23, posting a 24-13-7 record to go along with a .909 save percentage and 2.90 goals against average.

"I will try to meet him and get to know him myself," Dubas said. "Then we will be doing a very thorough evaluation of Tristan and review where he stands in the marketplace. That's a big priority because goaltending is vitally important."

Dubas said in a press release that he was drawn to the Penguins because of their "rich history of winning" and the coaching staff's "competitiveness."

"The opportunity to work with such passionate and committed people, as well as the established character and leadership of the long-standing core group of talented players, gives me great enthusiasm for the challenge at hand," he said.

"Our family has been made to feel extremely comfortable throughout this process and we are excited to now call Pittsburgh our home."

The Penguins haven't made it out of the first round since 2017-18.

Pittsburgh currently has $20.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.

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