The Bruins made it official Friday, announcing that Jim Montgomery would be Bruce Cassidy’s replacement as head coach.
The former St. Louis Blues assistant, Dallas Stars head coach, and University of Maine captain agreed to a deal Thursday. Multiple reports pegged Montgomery’s contract as three years at around $2 million per year.
That is about $1 million less than what Cassidy — the 2020 Jack Adams Award winner as NHL Coach of the Year — was making here. Cassidy, who had a year left on his deal when he was dismissed June 6, is earning some $4 million a season at his new outpost in Las Vegas.
A Bruins release said CEO Charlie Jacobs, team president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney, and Montgomery would hold an introductory press conference at TD Garden the week of July 11. That will be part of a busy stretch for management, which will be in Montreal for the draft (July 7-8) and back home for both development camp (July 11-15) and the opening of free agency (July 13).
Montgomery, the 29th coach in franchise history, was one of at least seven candidates who began the week under consideration. The others known to be in the mix: Former Boston University coach David Quinn, Seattle assistant Jay Leach, current Bruins assistant Joe Sacco, Pittsburgh assistant Mike Vellucci, Toronto assistant Spencer Carbery, and AHL Colorado head coach Greg Cronin.
Sweeney, in a statement Friday, pointed to Montgomery’s “winning history,” which includes a sparkling record at the University of Denver and a short but promising stint with the Stars, as well as an impactful playing career as a winger at Maine.
“Throughout the interview process he conveyed his ability to connect with all types of players while also demanding that his teams play with structure,” Sweeney said. “We are excited for Jim to begin to make his imprint on our team.”
It was not immediately clear who will assist him. Two of Cassidy’s assistant coaches, Sacco and Chris Kelly, remain under contract, as does longtime goalie coach Bob Essensa. Two of Montgomery’s assistants in Dallas were hired by other teams this week. John Stevens now works for Cassidy in Vegas, and Rick Bowness became Winnipeg’s coach. David Carle, Montgomery’s top assistant at Denver, remains the Pioneers’ head coach.
The primary challenge for Montgomery will be to retain the Bruins’ top-flight defensive framework while coaxing more offense from his charges. In the last five years, they have ranked no lower than fourth in goals against per game; they were 15th in goals per game this past season.
Montgomery will spend the first two months of the season, if not longer, without two of his best players. No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy is expected back in November after undergoing left shoulder surgery, and No. 1 left wing Brad Marchand (double hip surgery) is expected back in December. Additionally, top-four defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (right shoulder surgery) is on a similar timeline to McAvoy.
As the club announced his hiring, Montgomery had likely already tried to connect with Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, who remains without a contract as he mulls his potential return for a 19th season. Montgomery will have to convince David Pastrnak, whose deal expires next season, that he will be part of a winning club if he extends his contract long-term.
Montgomery has shown a touch with young players; he took the expansion Dubuque Fighting Saints to USHL titles in 2011 and 2013, and brought Denver to back-to-back Frozen Fours in 2016 and 2017. He’ll have to call on those interpersonal skills once again. To compete this season, the Bruins will need much more out of their 25-and-under set, including Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo, Trent Frederic, and Jack Studnicka.
Montgomery, who worked the last two seasons as an assistant in St. Louis following his December 2019 dismissal from Dallas, was celebrated by the Blues on social media Friday. Veteran winger David Perron said Montgomery was “appreciated by everyone around the room.” Coach Craig Berube praised him as “a great member of our staff” and said the promotion was “well deserved.”