Lighter on his feet after undergoing knee replacement surgery 10 weeks ago, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy added considerable weight to his wallet Wednesday after signing a multiyear contract extension.
The new deal for Cassidy, 54, is believed to add three years to a contract that was set to expire next spring and likely pegs his compensation at approximately $3 million a season.
The Bruins announced the deal in the morning, some 48 hours prior to what will be Cassidy’s first on-ice practice session of this year’s training camp at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton. The club, which Cassidy directed to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in June, did not make public the details of the deal, other than to term it a “multiyear contract extension.”
Cassidy’s deal was negotiated by his agent, Francois Giguere, a Colorado-based financial adviser who formerly was the Avalanche general manager. Player agents are not allowed to negotiate contracts for coaches or team management.
Part of the trick in finalizing the deal, noted by both Cassidy and general manager Don Sweeney, was establishing salary comparables within a coaching class that includes only the 30 other bench bosses across the NHL.
“Quenneville is not a comparable; he’s got three Stanley Cups, I have zero,” said Cassidy, asked if Joel Quenneville, now the Panthers coach, and the likes of Mike Sullivan (two Cup wins with Pittsburgh) and Barry Trotz (2018 Cup winner with the Capitals) were his comps.
“We tried to find guys . . . with only 30 other coaches, it gets a little tougher at times. If you are ever going to hit a snag, it’s figuring out who [are] your comparables.”
Quenneville, Toronto’s Mike Babcock, Alain Vigneault in Philadelphia, Claude Julien in Montreal, Sullivan, and Trotz, now on Long Island, draw the largest coaching paychecks in the NHL these days. Quenneville’s new deal in Florida is believed to be about the same as Babcock’s at $6.25 million a year. Julien and Vigneault each earn $5 million, and Sullivan and Trotz about the same.
When asked to identify his comps, Cassidy noted Bill Peters (Calgary), John Hynes (New Jersey), Jeff Blashill (Detroit), Craig Berube (St. Louis), and Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay), though he noted Cooper was “a little bit ahead” with his time behind the Lightning bench.
“I might be missing a couple,” added Cassidy. “Then you have to take out the young guys and the old guys.”
Amid listing the names of other coaches, Cassidy glanced over to a smiling Sweeney at the news conference and broke into laughter.
“Donnie might know the comparables better,” added Cassidy. “I do have [an agent], so I just got a phone call and tried to rehab my knee and not worry about it too much.”
Sweeney promoted Cassidy to the job in February 2017, upon dismissing Julien, and has seen the ex-AHL Providence coach rattle off an eye-popping .670 winning percentage in 191 regular-season games (117-52-22).
Cassidy took over a club performing at a lackluster 26-23-6 in 2017, installed a more up-tempo attack virtually overnight, and directed it to the playoffs with an 18-8-1 record. In his two-plus seasons as bench boss, Cassidy has steered the Bruins through seven playoff rounds, including last spring’s trip to the Cup Final.
Noting that Cassidy “has earned the right to lead this club,” Sweeney enumerated the former defenseman’s coaching methods and characteristics, including his ability to alter personnel and assignments during a game.
“A really good bench coach to know who’s playing well and who’s not,” said Sweeney, who had a more rigid in-game coach in Julien for his first season-plus as GM. “He continues to evolve in terms of how quick to be on the trigger, move guys around, versus having patience.”
The move to install Cassidy, who joined the Boston staff as one of Julien’s assistants in the fall of 2016, has been among Sweeney’s best decisions. In Cassidy’s time, the Bruins have gone from a middle-of-the-road performer to a solid contender in the Eastern Conference.
Cassidy inherited a strong veteran core from Julien, but he has provided a master’s touch in working young players, such as Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo on defense and Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen up front, into the lineup as regulars.
Cassidy has embraced the idea that the NHL, in large part because of the salary cap, must develop young talent through on-the-job training. If not for the surge of young players, Cassidy and Sweeney might already have gone looking for their next gigs.
His skill as a communicator, said team president Cam Neely, has been a key to Cassidy’s success.
“I think he’s got an open-door policy,” said Neely. “I think he communicates well — not only with the veteran leadership but also the young players. I think in today’s game you can’t just stick someone in a hole and tell them what to do and think they’re going to do it. I think it takes a lot more communication.”
Cassidy’s 2019-20 class reports to work Thursday in Brighton for physicals and the traditional media day, and the grind begins anew on Friday, with three practice days prior to the preseason opener Monday in New Jersey.
After only a year and a half on the job as the Capitals head coach (2002-04), his first top job in the NHL, it took Cassidy 13 years, including eight in Providence, to become the overnight sensation now in charge of a Boston team that he has shaped into a heavyweight contender in the East.
“As for getting a second chance, you never know,” mused Cassidy. “I always hoped I’d get one. I think every coach would tell you that — the first one that doesn’t work out, they’d like to learn from their mistakes and get another kick at the can.
“I did, and I am thankful for it — it’s worked out well so far.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.