The Tampa Bay Lightning finally announced a long-awaited contract extension on Friday morning.
Just not the one the team’s fans have been hoping for.
While a possible Steven Stamkos deal will have to wait for another day, there is plenty of reason to celebrate “a multi-year” deal for head coach Jon Cooper. The team offered no specifics, but several reports placed the term at two years.
As challenging as this season has been—and at 12-11-3 it’s fair to say the Bolts have failed to meet expectations—there’s no debate about Cooper’s value to the organization. He’s compiled a 112-70-23 record and .602 winning percentage since replacing Guy Boucher on Mar. 25, 2013. He was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award in 2014, and last season he led the Lightning to their first-ever 50-win season and second berth in the Stanley Cup Final.
He’s held in equally high regard around the league. Just last month the dual Canadian/American citizen was named an assistant coach for Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Keeping Cooper on board, then, was an easy decision for the organization to make. You don’t let coaches like that get away.
And if GM Steve Yzerman managed to hold the term to a bridge-type two years as speculated, then he did a nice job of limiting the team’s potential financial exposure down the road. It might end up costing him more if the team lives up to its potential under Cooper’s leadership and again challenges for, or even wins, the Cup, but that’s the sort of problem every GM loves to have.
Now that this is settled, it’ll be interesting to see if Cooper’s extension has any impact on the stalled Stamkos negotiations.
The two men haven't always seen eye-to-eye. Stamkos has made it clear his position of choice is center, while Cooper prefers him to play right wing. By re-upping Cooper, Yzerman is tacitly endorsing his coach’s approach. No telling how the player might take that.
And Stamkos is not the only one who might be unhappy with this news. Jonathan Drouin is regarded as one of the top prospects in the game but he can’t seem to find his way out of Cooper’s doghouse. It wouldn’t be surprising if the trade whispers grow louder now that Cooper’s entrenched, although moving the 20-year-old playmaking winger before he’s had an adequate opportunity to show what he’s capable of seems unlikely.
Could be some interesting times ahead ...