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Penguins hire former Leafs GM Dubas as president of hockey operations

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have named former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas its new president of hockey operations. Dubas speaks to media during an end-of-season availability in Toronto, on Monday, May 15, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins have named former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas its new president of hockey operations, the club announced Thursday.

The Penguins say Dubas, 37, will oversee all aspects of the team's hockey operations department including establishing the strategic vision and philosophy for the franchise.

The hiring comes just weeks after the Penguins dismissed general manager Ron Hextall, director of hockey operations Brian Burke and assistant general manager Chris Pryor after the club failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

The Maple Leafs fired Dubas on May 19, less than a week after the team suffered a second-round playoff defeat to the Florida Panthers.

Dubas, who had been Toronto’s GM since 2018 and didn’t have a contract beyond June 30, suggested at an end of season news conference May 15 he wasn’t sure he wanted to remain in the role — at least in part because of the stress on his young family.

"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."

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who had initially wanted to keep Dubas on board, said five days later at his media availability that he started to feel differently as the week progressed.

Former Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving was named Toronto's general manager Wednesday,

The Penguins announced Dubas's hiring about 30 minutes before the Leafs were set to introduce Treliving at a news conference in Toronto.

Dubas takes over a team that still believes it can compete for a Stanley Cup if it builds properly around the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. While Crosby and Malkin were excellent for much of last season while Letang dealt with multiple setbacks — including a stroke and the death of his father — Pittsburgh struggled to gain any real momentum during much of the 2022-23 season and stumbled down the stretch to snap the longest active playoff streak in major North American Sports.

“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 and within Fenway Sports Group,” FSG principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner said in a statement.

Dubas comes to Pittsburgh after nine seasons with the Maple Leafs organization, including the last five as general manager. Toronto won a postseason series for the first time since 2004 this spring before falling to Florida in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games.

While the Penguins remain one of the NHL's marquee teams, they also haven't advanced out of the first round of the postseason since 2018. Dubas takes over the NHL's oldest team, one with several players with no-trade clauses and a handful of onerous contracts that could be difficult to move. Pittsburgh's farm system is also in need of a major upgrade after the team spent years dealing prospects for more established players as part of a “win-now” mindset.

Dubas helped build the Maple Leafs into a regular-season power during his tenure. Toronto set single-season records for wins and points, and went 221-109-42 in his tenure. Dubas also didn’t shy away from big moves — he fired Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Babcock in November 2019 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe — but struggled to find the right mix in the playoffs until this spring.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.

The Associated Press