Jason Spezza, Kyle Dubas re-unite on Pittsburgh’s management team

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Jason Spezza is following Kyle Dubas from Toronto to Pittsburgh — and quite possibly the eventual role of Penguins’ general manager.

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Dubas, their new president of hockey operations, had said he would hold the GM’s position on an interim basis and now has the ideal candidate lined up in his 40-year-old former special assistant with the Leafs. Chris Pryor had already been let go as an assistant in the Pens’ major front office house cleaning two months ago.

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There’s no questioning Spezza’s loyalty to Dubas after he resigned from the Leafs the same day that president Brendan Shanahan sacked Dubas in what’s being spun by the Leafs as a late attempt by Dubas to gain more autonomy and salary in the extension offered him by the club.

The popular Spezza is definitely a loss for the organization, as he’d played effectively for a couple of years before retiring and had the trust of the dressing room in his new front-office role. But he’s not the first ex-player intern the Leafs moved on from, such as Joe Nieuwendyk a few years ago and new GM Brad Treliving made an astute hire of another respected NHLer in Shane Doan last week to replace Spezza.

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With a year to grasp how all aspects of the hockey office work, Spezza will be that much more valuable to Dubas.

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“He showed tremendous work ethic, curiosity, and ability to build relationships throughout all departments at the team facility,” a statement from Dubas read on Wednesday. “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. He will add a great perspective to our club, and we are excited to watch him reach his potential in management.”

Both Spezza and Doan, who had been with the Arizona Coyotes as Chief Development Officer, are valued front-office catches. Each played more than 1,000 games played, was known as a leader and industrious player on the ice, while very much in tune with today’s young NHL superstar class.

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Spezza hitching himself to the Dubas wagon is a big commitment, given he’s changing addresses again after no doubt hoping he and his wife would stay in his native GTA to raise their four daughters after 19 NHL years spent mostly in Ottawa and Dallas.

Spezza does have some Pittsburgh connections, winning a gold medal at the 2015 world championships with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and being a teammate of both Pittsburgh’s player development staffer Matt Cullen in Ottawa and hockey operations advisor Trevor Daley in Dallas.

The Penguins did not make Spezza available to the media on Wednesday.


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