The Lightning is holding the door open for associate coach Mike Sullivan. But general manager Brian Lawton said this week, "It wouldn't shock me if we had to be prepared to move in another direction."
Sullivan's working relationship with coach Rick Tocchet was one of the bright spots in a disappointing season. But the former Bruins bench boss wants another head coaching gig.
Sullivan, 41, is under contract through June 30, but Lawton has given him permission to investigate, and the Oilers and Wild jobs are open.
He also has permission to explore assistant jobs if they get him closer to his Massachusetts home. The Rangers and coach John Tortorella, under whom Sullivan worked in Tampa Bay, are believed interested.
Lawton said he will give Sullivan about two weeks before beginning the process of finding a replacement, though he will not shut Sullivan out.
"He wanted to weigh all his options, and he wasn't ruling anything out," Lawton said. "In the meantime, we will continue to do our due diligence. If he were fortunate enough to get a head coaching position, we have to be prepared to act and act quickly. But as of right now, Mike Sullivan would be welcomed back."
Sullivan, who last season had the thankless job of working with a tattered defense, would not say anything about his job prospects beyond that he is "exploring" his options and will make "the best decision for me and my family."
He did, however, have high praise for Tocchet and said Tampa Bay made the right move taking the interim label off his title.
"Toc did a terrific job in real tough circumstances," Sullivan said. "I think he commands a lot of respect not only because of the type of player he was, but because he did a hell of a job as coach. It was a well-deserved move for him."
Prospect signed: The Lightning signed center Mitch Fadden to a standard three-year rookie contract. Drafted 107th overall (fourth round) in 2007, Fadden, 21, had 37 goals and 76 points in 63 games last season for Tri-City and Lethbridge of the junior Western Hockey League.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.