By Allan Muir
There was a sense heading into this summer that Dave Tippett would not sign an extension with the Phoenix Coyotes until he knew that the franchise was on solid ground.
Either he knows something we don't, or his decision ultimately came down to the people, not the place.
Tippett surprised the hockey world this morning by agreeing to an unconditional five-year deal to remain as head coach for the franchise no matter where it plays over that span.
It was an interesting decision, but even more interesting timing. Negotiations to keep the team in Phoenix under new ownership are approaching a league-mandated deadline of July 2, and another couple of days might have told the story. More compelling, though, was that his name was in the mix for several high-profile openings, even though he would not be available to interview until his contract expired on June 30. But when two of those positions -- New York and Dallas -- were filled within the last 48 hours, Tippett likely weighed his options and decided the grass couldn't be any greener than where he was.
The sand may be shifting under the franchise, but the organization is stronger than ever. GM Don Maloney signed his own extension with the team last month. Just last week, assistant general manager Brad Treliving did the same.
With the leadership structure intact, and two of his assistants, Sean Burke and Jim Playfair also under contract, Tippett made the choice to remain part of that group.
That commitment won't go unnoticed by any free agents who might have concerns about their own future with the franchise. Mike Smith, a player who matured into a legitimate No. 1 goalie under Tippett and Burke, had the same concerns as the coach about the stability of the franchise. He still might place a premium on location, but knowing who he'll be working with might be enough to keep him from playing the field. And having Tippett in place will make it easier for Maloney to sweet talk any players he might target on July 5.