The season began with six NHL head coaches entering the final year of their respective deals. As the end of the regular season approaches, five of them are still in that position.
Only Jeremy Colliton in Chicago has been extended in that group. So where are we with the five remaining pending free-agent coaches? Let’s take a look:
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina: Owner Tom Dundon reiterated to me last week that an extension with Brind’Amour will get done. Here’s where I believe this is at: Both sides are hopeful a deal will eventually get done, but there remains a gap in both positions after some negotiations earlier this season. As I’ve said before, it’s hard for me to see Brind’Amour anywhere else. But he’s among the lowest-paid coaches right now. His new annual salary probably has to at least start with a 2 to make it work. And that’s still a bargain. I’m betting this gets done and Brind’Amour stays put. But it’s not a total slam dunk.
Travis Green, Vancouver: There have not been talks regarding an extension this season, which is a mistake in a Canadian market with a rabid fan base and intense media scrutiny. You don’t let a good coach like Green enter the season on an expiring deal. You’re asking for it to become a story when you do that. He has certainly earned an extension and a raise reflecting it. I do think the Canucks want to bring him back, and a source suggested to me Friday that perhaps there could be news on this front sooner rather than later. So stay tuned there.
Rick Tocchet, Arizona: This one feels like it’s headed for an exit by a coach who is well respected around the league. I don’t think there are any hard feelings; it’s just a situation where you have a first-year GM in Bill Armstrong who inherited a coach and is headed for a retool or rebuild of some sort with the roster. It probably makes sense for the GM to hire his own coach for that. And Tocchet is probably more interested in coaching a team that can contend in the here and now. Perhaps he stays, but if he does, it’s as much about Tocchet deciding to stay — a mutual decision. My gut feeling is that he leaves.