Thus far, all of the dominoes in this pivotal offseason have fallen in the Phoenix Coyotes’ favor. The trend may be continuing.
A source familiar with the negotiations told FOX Sports Arizona that the club is in engaged in talks with coach Dave Tippett on a new contract. While the terms are not yet known, the move would represent an enormous coup for the club from a PR perspective and would also aid it greatly when the free-agent market opens on July 5.
Tippett, whose existing contract is set to expire on June 30, has said repeatedly that he wants assurances that the club would have stable ownership and the ability to spend a little more in payroll to improve the club.
It is unclear how Tippett might have received those assurances with the team not yet sold and the Glendale City Council yet to see and vote upon a proposed arena lease agreement between the city and Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE), the ownership group headed by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc. But the source said Tippett feels comfortable with what is happening on the ownership front, is willing to sign a new deal and talks have gone well with GM Don Maloney, although they are not complete.
The team would also need to get approval of the deal from the NHL, which still owns the club, but it’s possible an announcement on Tippett’s new deal could be made as soon as this week if all parties consent.
It should be noted that a new deal for Tippett doesn’t necessarily mean the City of Glendale is set to approve a new lease agreement with RSE. If the deal fails, Seattle has been rumored as a possible Plan B. Tippett’s oldest daughter, Nicole, lives there and has two sons. That would make Seattle a very attractive option for Tippett and his wife, Wendy.
A big plus in Phoenix’s favor is the working relationship Tippett has with general manager Don Maloney, a bullet point that tends to get overlooked when outsiders evaluate Tippett’s options.
“That relationship is one of the most important for a coach,” Tippett said at the press conference for Maloney’s new contract last month. “But it’s not just Don I enjoy working with here. It’s (COO) Mike Nealy, it’s (recently re-signed assistant GM) Brad (Treliving), it’s the other coaches, it’s Shane Doan and the players.
“It’s a good situation as far as all that is concerned.”
LeBlanc has made it clear in the past that RSE views Tippett as a vital component of the franchise moving forward, not just because of his obvious coaching abilities in the face of enormous obstacles, but because the group views him as vital to fan confidence and, therefore, season ticket sales.
Tippett could also help in the Coyotes’ quest to re-sign free-agent goalie Mike Smith, free-agent center Boyd Gordon and outside free agents the team will pursue.
Smith is believed to be seeking a long-term contract that would put him among the highest-paid goalies in the NHL — agent Kurt Overhardt believes he is worth it — but with Tippett and captain Doan making a power play, Smith might be willing to accept a little less to return to Phoenix, where he has enjoyed his only sustained NHL success with a system and a goalie coach (Sean Burke) perfectly suited to his style and ability.
In four seasons as coach, Tippett has led the Coyotes to a 156-96-41 record with the three highest point totals in franchise history and the deepest playoff run in franchise history when the team advanced in 2012 to the Western Conference finals, where it fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.