The list of potential Kraken coaching candidates thinned notably Monday as Gerard Gallant reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Rangers.
But likely of greater importance to the Kraken than Gallant coming off the board is that it removes the Rangers from contention for Rod Brind’Amour should he not sign a coaching extension with the Carolina Hurricanes. Though the Rangers were widely considered a longshot to land Brind’Amour as a free-agent coach, their East Coast geography closer to his North Carolina home and status as the NHL’s highest-valued franchise meant they could not be ruled out until now.
Gallant, who led the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final their debut 2017-18 season, did speak to the Kraken last year after being fired in January 2020. But it’s unclear how seriously the Kraken pursued him, despite his credentials running an expansion team, as its focus appeared to shift toward other candidates of higher profile.
Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a conference call with reporters this month that he hopes to have his first coach hired by the end of June. Coaching contracts typically expire June 30, except for those on teams still participating in these COVID-19-extended playoffs. The Hurricanes were eliminated in the second round.
“I think we said from day one that we’re hoping to get it done by the end of the second quarter,” Francis said. “We’re now in that last month of the second quarter, so we’re continuing to work through it, and hopefully we can wrap it up on that time frame.”
Brind’Amour is said, among other things, to be negotiating with the Hurricanes to garner raises for his assistants, a detail long-rumored and first reported last month by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. The Hurricanes under owner Tom Dundon, who took over majority control of the team in early 2018, have been praised for spending more on the on-ice product but less so on support staffers.
It also was reported last week by Friedman that the Hurricanes had granted assistant Dean Chynoweth permission to explore opportunities with other teams. Chynoweth, a former coach with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, is the only Hurricanes coach to receive such permission.
He joined the Hurricanes in July 2018, shortly after Francis was fired, and was lauded for his work on Carolina’s defense and penalty killing.
Brind’Amour and Dundon have expressed optimism in recent weeks that an extension would get done. For the Kraken, that means it must wait on developments surrounding a coach considered a hot NHL commodity because of his ability to communicate with and relate to players — especially younger ones — while getting them to produce at a playoff-caliber level for three consecutive seasons.
Francis has been busy lining up other candidates, including onetime teammate Rick Tocchet, who agreed to a mutual parting with the Arizona Coyotes at season’s end. Tocchet has been interviewed twice by the Kraken, most recently the day after the NHL entry draft lottery this month when Francis met with him in Las Vegas.
Other rumored candidates include former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau. There’s also former Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, who emerged as an early candidate here the minute former teammate Francis became GM. Dineen has spent the past two seasons coaching Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego.
Current Florida coach Joel Quenneville was said last month in a New York Post report to be mulling whether to end his contract early to join the Kraken — something the Panthers would have to allow as there are three seasons remaining on the deal.
A league source said at the time that the Post report did have some substance to it but added that Quenneville coming to Seattle remained a longshot. No further developments have emerged publicly since the Panthers’ first-round playoff elimination, which isn’t surprising given Quenneville remains under contract.
In a final season-ending Zoom call with Florida reporters two weeks ago, Quenneville was asked how he felt about the future of the Panthers organization and his role within it. He kept his answer focused on the team rather than anything related to himself.
“I think we’re excited,” he said. “I think talking to all the players today and talking to our staff, and we haven’t really, really summed up the whole season, but I think we made significant progress in the consistency of our team. We played at a high level, a predictable level and expectations changed internally.
“Now I think that going into a start of a season all of a sudden we have different goals. The goal will always be to make the playoffs, and then there’s the next plan.”
So, no definitive statement about returning, or refuting the initial Post report. Just generalities about the Panthers that enable him to step into training camp with them — or the Kraken — next fall without contradicting himself.
At this point, a Quenneville reunion with former teammate Francis seems far less likely than Brind’Amour doing so. Either way, we’ll know for certain in a few weeks.
All we know for now is that Gallant won’t be joining his second expansion team in four years. And that Quenneville and Brind’Amour were both just last week named as finalists, along with Minnesota’s Dean Evason — yet another Francis ex-teammate — for NHL coach of the year.