Man of his word: Therrien signs 1-year extension

Penguins coach's loyalty never wavers as he chooses to add another year to his contract, build on turnaround season

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Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
It never even crossed my mind ... I'm not a guy who likes to shops around.
By Dave Molinari
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Penguins coach Michel Therrien oversaw one of the greatest turnarounds in NHL history last season and will have some of the finest young talent in the game at his disposal in the coming winter.

It would have been understandable if Therrien had decided to serve out the final year of his contract then, with a couple of exceptional seasons on his resume, auction himself to the highest bidder next summer.

Some people -- especially his accountant -- would have viewed that as a shrewd decision.

Therrien, though, saw it as more of a non-issue and didn't balk at signing a contract extension that ties him to the Penguins through the 2008-09 season.

"It never even crossed my mind," Therrien said. "I'm not a guy who likes to shop around."

Not a stance that creates much leverage in contract negotiations, perhaps, but there is something to be said for remaining faithful to an employer with which one is comfortable.

"He wasn't going anywhere," general manager Ray Shero said. "Nor did he want to go anywhere. ... He's always been very loyal to the people he's worked for."

Therrien characterized his extension as "a great vote of confidence." Shero portrayed it as a reasonable reward for Therrien's accomplishments.

"It's well-deserved," Shero said. "He did a great job last year."

The two began discussing an extension shortly after the 2006-07 season ended, proceeding "step-by-step," as Therrien put it, while dealing with more pressing concerns such as the entry draft and free agency.

Shero said they "explored" a longer-term deal before settling on a one-year extension to his existing deal, and did not rule out their relationship lasting well beyond the life of Therrien's new deal.

"Hopefully, this is something that's going to turn into something that's even more long-term," Shero said.

Assistant coaches Mike Yeo and Andre Savard, who have a year left on their contracts, have not received extensions, but Shero said he hopes to reach agreements with them before training camp opens in mid-September.

Therrien led the Penguins to a 47-24-11 record last season, his first full one behind their bench. That was good for 105 points, the second-highest total in franchise history and was a 47-point improvement over the Penguins' 2005-06 total.

"We've come a long way in a year," Shero said.

So has his relationship with Therrien. Shero acknowledged that when he was hired to succeed Craig Patrick as GM in May 2006, he "didn't really know a lot about" Therrien, who had replaced Eddie Olczyk a half-year earlier.

They discovered, over time, that their philosophies mesh in many ways, although that doesn't mean one simply is an echo chamber for the thoughts of the other.

"Some things we don't agree on," Shero said. "But we respect each other's opinions."

They also concur that, while qualifying for the playoffs again is a non-negotiable objective, the success of the coming regular season shouldn't be measured solely by the team's won-lost record.

"We want to improve this year," Shero said. "I'm not sure if that's going to be reflected in our point total or not.

"It was a big turnaround for one year. But we all know there are bigger challenges ahead."

NOTES -- While reiterating that he might "look for an odd piece or two, depth-wise" to add to his roster, Shero made it clear that he does not anticipate any major free-agent signings. Yesterday, the Penguins picked up two free-agent defensemen, Mark Ardelan and Deryk Engelland, who are expected to compete for jobs with their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre. ... Shero said management is down to "four to five" candidates to replace conditioning coach Stephane Dube, who was fired after last season.

Penguins coach Michel Therrien characterized his extension as "a great vote of confidence."
John Heller, Post-Gazette
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Dave Molinari can be reached at .


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