PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Sullivan is sticking around to see if he can get the Pittsburgh Penguins back to the Stanley Cup.
The club announced Friday that it has signed Sullivan — who guided the Penguins to championships in 2016 and 2017 — to a four-contract extension that runs through the 2023-24 season. The terms of the new deal will kick in when Sullivan’s current contract expires at the end of the upcoming season.
The 51-year-old Sullivan is 174-92-34 with Pittsburgh since taking over for Mike Johnston in December 2015. Sullivan’s arrival provided a spark that helped the Penguins become the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The deal gives Sullivan time to help Pittsburgh retool after getting swept by the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2019 playoffs.
“Mike has done a great job delivering four, 100-plus point seasons with our team,” general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement. “To win back-to-back Stanley Cups in this era speaks volumes of him as a coach.”
The extension doubles as a vote of confidence from Rutherford, who expressed concern about the need for a culture change inside the dressing room after the Penguins slogged through much of 2018-19 before the earliest playoff exit of the Sidney Crosby era.
Sullivan clashed at times with prolific but temperamental forward Phil Kessel, whom the Penguins traded to Arizona last week for Alex Galchenyuk, among others. Pittsburgh also sent defenseman Olli Maatta to Chicago and signed versatile forward Brandon Tanev to a six-year deal on the opening day of free agency earlier this week.
“Mike has proven he is a tremendous leader for our team,” Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse said. “Our trust in him as a coach has continued to grow since winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in his first two years. Mike has a championship mindset and he is the right guy for our team, the organization and the city of Pittsburgh.”
Sullivan has preached about “playing the right way” from the day he took over for Johnston while helping build a team identity focused on speed and solid defensive play. Speed hasn’t been an issue during his tenure, but the Penguins have slid defensively since raising the Cup for the fifth time in franchise history in 2017.
Rutherford hinted during Pittsburgh’s season-ending news conference that the front office had no problem with Sullivan’s tactics and instead placed the blame for Pittsburgh’s abrupt postseason ouster on the players. The roster overhaul in recent weeks has focused on trying to creating more depth up the middle and making the Penguins more difficult to face.
Sullivan is the third-winningest coach in Penguins’ history, trailing only Dan Bylsma and Eddie Johnston. He is 9-2 in playoff series and his 38 postseason wins rank second behind Bylsma.