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Penguins Must Reinvent Brian Dumoulin Next Season

The 30-year-old defenseman must be utilized differently by the Pittsburgh Penguins starting next season.

A massive benchmark for most NHL players is 30 years old. Some players can surge passed that number and continue their productive play for multiple years, but others begin a decline into what eventually becomes the end of their career. For Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, the regression may have already started.

Dumoulin has made a solid career for himself with the Penguins. Heading into his tenth NHL season, Dumoulin is considered among the best defensive defenseman in Penguins history while also playing a pivotal role in multiple Stanley Cup Championships.

He has spent his career primarily flanking Kris Letang on the top defensive pairing, but maybe it's time he receives a demotion. After dealing with injuries the previous two seasons, Dumoulin is again spending his summer rehabbing major knee surgery after tearing his MCL in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fortunately, Dumoulin is already back on the ice, testing his surgically repaired knee.

While he does seem to be regressing, the Penguins could still get solid production out of the 30-year-old if they bump him down in the lineup. The left side of the Penguin's defense is intriguing, to say the least. With Mike Matheson and Marcus Pettersson making over $4 million and P.O. Joseph working his way to the NHL, someone may have to go.

With only one year remaining on his contract, many people suggest that Dumoulin, and his $4.1 million cap hit, could become trade fodder for the cap-strapped Penguins. Issues with attempting to trade someone holding a modified no-trade clause could force general manager Ron Hextall to look at other options on that front.

With Dumoulin most likely returning, something will need to change in his deployment. Taking into consideration the number of injuries Dumoulin sustained in recent years, he had a decently productive season with the Penguins. He finished with over 20 minutes of ice time per game for the sixth straight season, showing the trust that the organization continues to have in him.

However, there were stretches throughout the season in which the toll taken by his previous injuries was on display. Dumoulin would get beat routinely off the rush, something that never happened in his prime, and his ability to clear the net-front also took a hit.

The main issue next season will be keeping Dumoulin's legs, and there is no better way to do that than to limit his ice time and slot him with Chad Ruhwedel on the third pairing. Not only will his ice time go down in general, but the severity of the shifts will go down as he'll be sharing the ice with another stay-at-home defenseman instead of the mercurial Letang.

Brian Dumoulin may have played his best hockey, but a smaller role with the Penguins could revive his numbers and bring a steady shutdown pairing to the bottom of the Penguins lineup. 

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