Another domino has dropped in the Kraken’s coaching search, and it’s a big one. Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes announced Thursday that he has agreed to a three-year contract extension with that club.
Brind’Amour and Kraken general manager Ron Francis were close as former teammates and in working together with the Hurricanes. When the Kraken was searching for a GM two years ago this month, a glowing recommendation from Brind’Amour, Francis’ former assistant coach, helped cement the team’s first major front-office choice.
Francis had delayed finalizing plans for hiring the Kraken’s first coach until seeing whether Brind’Amour would stick with the Hurricanes. Contract talks were shelved by mutual agreement the remainder of the regular season and through Carolina’s second-round playoff elimination by Tampa Bay. The issue of what would happen with his assistant coaches was said to be a major sticking point, which Brind’Amour confirmed in a call with reporters on Thursday in saying he’d long hoped those obstacles would be overcome so he could stay put.
“There’s always temptation to listen to the outside noise,” he said. “But I have a hard time thinking I could do the same job I do here somewhere else. This place is a part of me. I’ve been here forever. Again, it’s about the people I get to come to work with every day. That’s not going to be the case in other places.”
But things came together in the two weeks since that playoff ouster, and it became clear as the week progressed that a deal was close. The New York Rangers — another team said to have been waiting on Brind’Amour’s possible free agency — announced Tuesday they’d hired Gerard Gallant as their coach.
The Kraken has been working on alternate plans in the event Brind’Amour did not become available and has conducted interviews with several candidates. Among those being considered are former Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and ex-Minnesota Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau. There had also been a report linking them to Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, though he remains under contract and a deal would need to be struck with that team for him to go anywhere else. Among the bigger wild-card names out there is former Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and owns the most victories all-time by a U.S.-born coach.
But Tortorella has had run-ins with players and media in his various NHL stops — which included Vancouver and the New York Rangers — so it remains doubtful the first-year Kraken would go that route in a new market. Word as of late Thursday was that Tortorella isn’t coming to the Kraken.
Claude Julien, a Stanley Cup winner with Boston in 2011, is another available coach with a similar reputation for getting the most out of players — though he was fired in-season by a Montreal Canadiens squad now three wins from the final round under new bench boss Dominique Ducharme. Former Rangers coach David Quinn is also available, though he was fired by New York largely because owner James Dolan — who used to be business partners with the Oak View Group and Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke’s brother, Tim — didn’t believe he was getting results quickly enough.
Francis has said he was waiting for the playoffs to unfold before making his decision and hoped to have one by month’s end. The availability of Brind’Amour was the last real puzzle piece that needed to drop into place, meaning a Kraken announcement should be forthcoming within the next two weeks ahead of the team’s July 21 expansion draft.