Penguins hire ex-Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas as president

The Pittsburgh Penguins have hired former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas as president of hockey operations, the team announced Thursday.

Dubas, 37, will oversee all aspects of the Penguins' hockey operations department, "establishing the strategic vision and philosophy for the franchise," according to the team.

He will also serve as the team's interim general manager until at least July, which is when Dubas said he expects to hire "someone progressive that can really add an element to the organization that perhaps I don't have as a skill set."

The Penguins fired president of hockey operations Brian Burke, general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager Chris Pryor on April 14. Pittsburgh missed the Stanley Cup playoffs this season for the first time since Sidney Crosby's rookie campaign, a span of 16 years.

Burke was the first person to ever serve as president of hockey operations for the Penguins.

"We are thrilled to welcome Kyle to the Pittsburgh Penguins," Fenway Sports Group principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner said in a joint statement. "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."

Dubas said he spoke with Crosby and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan before taking the job, to get a sense of their expectations for the franchise's future. Sullivan is signed through the 2026-27 season and had input on the search for the team's new executives. Crosby has two more years on his contract.

At his introductory news conference, Dubas said he views the task ahead of the Penguins as a two-pronged effort: Continuing to give their veteran core a chance to contend for a fourth Stanley Cup championship together, while also laying the groundwork for the next phase of the franchise.

"The work will also begin at delivering a long-term hockey organization that can be the class of the NHL and to reduce any gap in time from the end of those great players' careers to the next era of great hockey for the Pittsburgh Penguins," Dubas said.

Dubas spent nine seasons with the Maple Leafs, including the past five as general manager. At the time of his hiring, he was the second-youngest GM in NHL history at age 32. Three of the five most successful regular seasons in team history happened on his watch. Toronto defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2023 playoffs, its first series win since 2004.

Dubas, however, didn't have a contract beyond the 2022-23 season.

At his final media availability of the season, Dubas said the season was hard on his family and that his next steps would require "a full family discussion."

Dubas, however, indicated at that time that he wanted to remain in Toronto.

"I definitely don't have it in me to go anywhere else," Dubas said then. "It'll either be here or it'll be taking time to recalibrate, 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."

On Thursday, Dubas said he has some regrets about his candor.

"Maybe I was too honest that day with how I was feeling in that exact moment, but it's in the past," he said.

Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who promoted Dubas to general manager in 2018, said four days later that the team would seek a new GM. He cited those comments by Dubas as an indication he was wavering on his commitment to the job.

"I think at that point there was a dramatic shift in my thinking as I drove home that night," Shanahan said at the time. "As Kyle expressed, he may not want to be our GM, and I have to take that very seriously. As I said to him the day before [when we met privately], I understood those feelings [around family] and the pressure ... but it was a very real possibility for me at that point I'd be needing to look somewhere else."

By the time the agent for Dubas presented a new contract proposal to Shanahan later that week, the Leafs' president had already decided a split was probable.

"A gap had risen in the contract status," Shanahan said.

The Leafs announced Wednesday that former Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving was hired to replace Dubas. Perhaps not coincidentally, Treliving's introductory news conference was scheduled Thursday for just minutes after the Penguins announced the executive he's replacing had joined them.

Shanahan didn't believe the timing was intentional.

"[Fenway Sports Management CEO Sam Kennedy] and I are very close. We've talked over the last week several times about Kyle," Shanahan said Thursday at the Leafs' news conference to introduce Treliving. "I think they need to get to work as well. Fully endorse Kyle, and [I] told Sam he would be great for the organization and I'm very happy for him."

For Dubas, the task with the Penguins is considerable. The team's legendary core of Crosby (35 years old), Evgeni Malkin (36) and Kris Letang (36) is trying to win one more Stanley Cup together after victories in 2009, 2016 and 2017. Finding the right mix around the trio was a challenge that Hextall failed to overcome.

Dubas and his eventual general manager will have over $20 million in salary cap space to work with this offseason. Among the priorities will be finding a new supporting cast at forward, where only eight players are under contract, and assessing the team's goaltending. Starter Tristan Jarry is an unrestricted free agent this summer and had a particularly brutal last 20 games of the regular season.

Dubas said he'll consult Penguins goalie coach Andy Chiodo and Sullivan on Jarry's future but left the door open for the goalie's return next season.

"We'll get a real scope of who's going to be available, whether that's in free agency or by trade," Dubas said. "And then, if Tristan is at the top of that mix or in that mix, because he's familiar, it'll be to try to establish a concept that can get done with he and his agent."

ESPN's Kristen Shilton contributed to this report.