CHICAGO – After the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years last June, extending the contract of coach Joel Quenneville was a no-brainer for general manager Stan Bowman.
And for once during the off-season, Bowman didn’t have to consider the NHL’s salary cap in making a key personnel decision—one that lengthens Quenneville’s deal through 2013-14. The Blackhawks have had to shed eight players, including playoff heroes Antti Niemi and Dustin Byfuglien, from their championship roster due to the league’s US$59.4 million player payroll limit.
“We’ve talked a lot about the cap and thankfully this wasn’t something that we had to worry about that way,” Bowman said. “We’ve got some fresh (player) faces coming into the mix, but I also think it’s important to say the flipside of that is the stability we have up top, particularly behind the bench with Joel leading the group.”
Financial terms of Quenneville’s three-year extension weren’t disclosed Thursday. He had one year remaining on a three-year contract he signed when he took the Chicago coaching job four games into the 2008-09 season after Denis Savard was fired.
Not only did Quenneville lead the Blackhawks to their first Cup since 1961, he became just the 14th coach to win 500 games. He previously coached at St. Louis and Colorado.
Last year, Bowman re-signed three of the Blackhawks top young players—Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith—a year before their contracts expired to avoid brinksmanship and distraction. His rationale was the same with Quenneville.
“This was something I had on my mind for awhile,” Bowman said. “It was one of those things I knew as soon as the season ended we would get it. Once we made the decision and talked about it internally, there really was no reason to put it off.”
The announcement of Quenneville’s contract extension comes two days before the Blackhawks open training camp.
“I think the timing of it (is good),” Quenneville said. “We’re only concentrating on hockey once the season starts. That’s the focus and where our minds are.”
Quenneville’s immediate task is organizing and directing a team that can defend its title.
“Not only did we lose some key players, but we added some real nice pieces to our mix,” Quenneville said. “We were able to retain the core of our team. We’ve got our top three centremen back in place. We’ve got six of our seven defencemen returning. We’ve got an experienced new goaltender (Marty Turco) coming in.”
Managing and meshing young stars into a championship team impresses Bowman most about Quenneville.
“People would say we’ve got a lot of good players, but when you’ve got a lot of star players on a team, it can be difficult,” Bowman said. “There’s only one puck to go around and only so much ice time to divvy up.”