Put aside any talk of Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan being a lame duck in 2019-20, or being on the hot seat or at odds with general manager Jim Rutherford because he was being left to twist in the wind.
Sullivan no longer is going into the final year of his contract. The team Friday announced he has gotten an extension that runs through the 2023-24 season. That tacks on four years to his deal that expires after the coming season.
Terms were not released, but it’s prudent to figure Sullivan is not one of the lower compensated coaches in the NHL.
Sullivan guided the Penguins to Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017. Falling short in the playoffs the two seasons since then – including a first-round sweep by the Islanders in April – along with questions about whether his message was still being heard by players led to some doubt about Sullivan’s job security.
There also were reports of discord between Sullivan and Phil Kessel, which might have been one reason the sniper was traded to Arizona.
Plus, of course, it’s the NHL, where coaches sometimes have the shelf life of a week-old loaf of bread.
While the extension doesn’t guarantee Sullivan, 51, will remain in place for years to come, it does seem to convey a vote of confidence from upper management, especially coming so quickly after the draft and the start of free agency rather than lingering into the summer.
The Penguins’ news release contained evidence of those votes of confidence.
“Mike has done a great job delivering four 100-plus point seasons with our team,” Rutherford said in the release. “To win back-to-back Stanley Cups in this era speaks volumes of him as a coach. His instincts in managing the inner workings of our team both on and off the ice has been impressive.”
And from team president and CEO David Morehouse: “Mike has proven he is a tremendous leader for our team. Our trust in him as a coach has continued to grow since winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in his first two years. Mike has a championship mindset and he is the right guy for our team, the organization and the city of Pittsburgh.”