RALEIGH — Rod Brind’Amour might not be anywhere near the NHL’s highest-paid coach, but that’s clearly not everything to someone who has made “being a Hurricane” a cornerstone of his life.
“Finances and money, that’s part of it,” said Brind’Amour on Thursday at a Zoom press conference announcing his three-year contract extension, “but I feel like I’m the richest coach in the league. … How many coaches can do their job where they live and where they’re from, had a footprint in everything that’s going on here over the last 20 years? I don’t know what kind of value you can put on that.”
Brind’Amour has been in Raleigh since being acquired from Philadelphia in a January 2000 trade, reaching a Stanley Cup Final with the Hurricanes in 2002 before captaining the franchise to its only Stanley Cup in 2006.
His expiring contract had gained notice around the league as other teams — including the deep-pocketed Rangers, a Sabres team led by fellow 2006 Carolina Cup-winner Kevyn Adams, and the incoming Seattle Kraken run by former Hurricanes GM and Brind’Amour teammate Ron Francis — conducted coaching searches.
But the holdup on finalizing the deal — which Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported was a below-market $1.8 million annually — was never about Brind’Amour exploring his options or being dissatisfied with the terms of his new contract. Instead, it was about assuring his staff — assistant coaches, trainers and equipment managers — were also taken care of.
“We have a special group down here, and for me to do this job to the best of my ability, it’s important to have the right people around me,” Brind’Amour said.
Brind’Amour specifically mentioned trainer Doug Bennett, strength coach Bill Burniston and the equipment staff in his comments, but the team has not yet confirmed which coaches and staff members have signed new deals. Assistant coach Dean Chynoweth has reportedly been permitted to talk with other teams.
Brind’Amour is 120-66-20 since taking over behind the bench in Carolina before the 2018-19 season, and his .631 winning percentage is easily the best in franchise history (Peter Laviolette is second at .570). The team won the Central Division this past season and Brind’Amour is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the NHL’s top coach, that will be announced Thursday night. The team has also reached the postseason three consecutive seasons for the first time under Brind’Amour’s guidance.
Despite the rumors that swirled around Brind’Amour the past few months, Don Waddell — the team’s president and general manager — called the negotiation easy, and Brind’Amour reiterated that the Hurricanes job is the only one he wants.
“I would have a hard time thinking I could do the same job I’m doing here somewhere else because this is a part of me,” Brind’Amour said. “This place — I’ve been here forever. And again, it’s more about the people that I get to come to work with every day. That wouldn’t be the case somewhere else. … We’ve got a special group of players here too, and that’s something that I didn’t want to leave.
“It just didn’t ever really enter my mind that I would leave because of what we got going on here, and I want to see it through.”
The pieces that make up that “special group of players” will be tested this offseason in free agency, the most pressing issue being whether or not the team will re-sign defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The Hurricanes have allowed Hamilton’s agent to talk to other teams ahead of free agency but remain in contact about keeping him in Carolina.
“There’s a difference of opinion right now,” Waddell said of negotiations between the two sides.
Letting Hamilton explore other offers could facilitate one of two things: an agreement with another team that would let the Hurricanes negotiate a return for the rights to sign Hamilton early, or a realization that what Carolina is offering is more in line with what the open market could yield and lead to further negotiations on an extension.
“We love Dougie,” Waddell said. “Dougie’s been good for this franchise, and we’re certainly hoping that he comes back. But we also felt that we didn’t want to wait until July 28 and try to figure that out, so we just got a little head start on it.”
Waddell also said he has been in communication with Andrei Svechnikov’s representatives about the restricted free agent’s next deal.
“The discussions are ongoing (and) will be ongoing until we get something done, and I’m very confident that we will reach a compromise and get him signed way before the start of the season,” Waddell said.
And there are plenty of other decisions to be made. The Hurricanes need to prepare for the expansion and entry drafts along with free agency. The medical status of players — Jordan Martinook underwent knee surgery and is a UFA, while Jake Gardiner had a recent MRI according to Waddell and was still determining his next steps — could determine the direction the team takes in building its roster for 2021-22.
But one certain thing is Brind’Amour will be behind the bench.
“It’s a special day for me because I know I’m going to be here for a few more years at least,” he said, “and again, trying to get this place right up to the top of the food chain.”