TAMPA — Jon Cooper said he never was concerned about his future with the Lightning. The last time his contract was up for renewal, he didn’t sign an extension until late in the final year of the deal.
This time the Lightning didn’t keep him waiting. Cooper said the champagne practically still was on ice from the team’s second straight Stanley Cup celebration in July when he was approached about remaining in Tampa Bay beyond 2021-22.
On Monday, the eve of the season opener, the Lightning announced a three-year extension for Cooper that runs through 2024-25.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Cooper reportedly is making between $3.5 million and $4 million annually on his current deal.
“Tampa is my home,” Cooper said. “So it’s great to be able to be back, to be able to be here for a few more years.
“This was talked about probably four days after we hoisted the Stanley Cup (on July 7). We got into the nitty-gritty part when we started coming to training camp. … To be honest, in this organization, it really never, ever becomes an issue. It’s kind of like a family atmosphere, and (there are) lots of open lines of communication before anything happens.”
“Unequivocally, ‘Coop’ is the best person for the job,” general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement. “He is a great leader, spokesperson and ambassador for our organization. We are lucky to have him as our head coach, and I very much look forward to our continued partnership.”
After becoming just the second team to win back-to-back Cups since the salary cap era began in 2005, the Lightning secured stability at the top of their organization in the offseason.
They extended BriseBois, who also was entering the final year of his contract, last month. They signed top-line center Brayden Point to an eight-year, $76 million extension good through 2029-30.
“I’m just excited to be a part of this organization for a few more years and just continue to build on this standard we’ve set,” Cooper said. “It’s the greatest place to work. I think enough’s been said about (owner) Jeff Vinik and how fabulous he is and the relationship Julien and I have had for a number of years now.”
Hired on March 25, 2013, from AHL Syracuse to replace fired Guy Boucher, Cooper is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL. Former general manager Steve Yzerman promoted Cooper following his success with the Lightning’s AHL affiliates, first in Norfolk and then Syracuse, since being hired in 2010. Cooper, a former lawyer, has won at every level, from his first juniors coaching job with the Texarkana/St. Louis Bandits and the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.
Seven of Cooper’s eight full-season Lightning teams have gone to the playoffs, including five trips to at least the Eastern Conference final over seven years.
This is Cooper’s third contract extension with the Lightning. He signed a three-year deal just before the end of the 2018-19 regular season. The Lightning won the Presidents’ Trophy that season but exited the postseason in the first round, swept by the Blue Jackets.
But in the two seasons since, Cooper’s Lightning have hoisted the Stanley Cup. Under his leadership, the Lighting re-invented themselves from a group that relied on its superior skill to one that played a solid 200-foot game and grinded out wins, especially during the long haul of the postseason.
Cooper also will coach Canada in February’s Olympics.
Cooper said it was important for him to ensure that his coaching staff — which includes Derek Lalonde, Jeff Halpern, Rob Zettler, Frantz Jean, Nigel Kirwan and Brian Garlock — also received extensions.
“It wasn’t about my contract,” Cooper said. “It was making sure that the full staff (was extended). We’re all in this together, and so I didn’t want any of this to be announced or done yet (until) everybody was looked after.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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