Dave Hakstol earns contract extension through 2025-26 season

Colorado Avalanche v Seattle Kraken - Game Six

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Assistant coach Paul McFarland and head coach Dave Hakstol of the Seattle Kraken talk against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period in Game Six of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Climate Pledge Arena on April 28, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol had just one year left on his current contract. 

He won’t have to worry anymore about what’s next after that.

The soon-to-be seventh year head coach in the NHL was signed to a two-year extension with the Kraken, the team announced on Wednesday, ensuring a lengthier stay for the bench boss that orchestrated a record setting turnaround, and will now be in place to see through a team that is designed for a long term build, even after arguably arriving to the Stanley Cup Playoffs ahead of schedule last spring. 

“Dave and the staff did a great job,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a news conference shortly after the conclusion of the season. “There was some unfair criticism. It was a challenge, the first year for us to get another person on the staff to help with Dave and the two assistants and find the right mix. It was a lot of extra work on the three of them.” 

Enter Dave Lowry, hired on staff to help with those logistics, and a season that opened the door for more success. Francis said the room’s chemistry begins with Hakstol’s approach. 

“He has to go in there every day and work that room,” said Francis. “You saw it from our guys, from start to finish - they were a gutsy group and gritty group. That’s a reflection on him, how he prepares, and wants his teams to play.” 

While general manager Ron Francis installed the players, it was Hakstol, a finalist for this season’s Jack Adams Award, who installed the strategy, calculated the right buttons to push, and endeared himself to the public by describing his dressing room’s emotional status heading into the playoff stretch drive. What computed was a breathtaking, record setting turnaround for a second year NHL expansion team, improving by 40 points while he set personal bests behind the bench in a 46-win, and 100-point campaign, also while orchestrating his first victorious trip out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in his career. 

There was no true “superstar” in this system, at its best, relying on a relentless forecheck and a breakneck transition game. Though it’s projected Matty Beniers will get to that tier, he was still a rookie in Hakstol’s system who put together a Calder Trophy campaign with 24 goals and 57 points. He joined five others to score 20 goals or more. Jared McCann hit 40 for the first time in his career. Vince Dunn exploded on the blueline to hit 14 goals and 64 points. The team’s 3.5 goals per game finished as the fourth best offense in the NHL, and limited opponents to 27 shots per game, second best in the league. 

"It starts with our depth," said Hakstol at the end of the season. "Everyone being a part of it, everyone knowing going into any night, they've got to do their part or else our team and the opportunity to win is significantly damaged. But that's a fun group to be a part of. You want to be, as a player."

Hakstol will now get his shot to manage long term growth likely out of Shane Wright, and potential AHL graduates Ryker Evans, Kole Lind and Tye Kartye, the latter who made his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and scored in his first game at Colorado. Not to mention, he will likely have Beniers, McCann, Andre Burakovsky, Jaden Schwartz, Philipp Grubauer, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jamie Oleksiak, Will Borgen, Yanni Gourde, Brandon Tanev, and Adam Larsson in his same dressing room, on schedule for at least two more seasons or longer. 

“We believe we are heading in the right direction with Dave as our head coach and it was important to show that confidence with this contract extension,” said Francis in a team statement. 

The Warburg, Alberta local was originally hired by the Kraken as head coach two summers ago as a surprise hire, bucking other potential candidates who gained attention as the anticipation built to announce the first head coach in franchise history. The Kraken at first struggled under his watch, unable to recover from a 1-4-1 start and a missed trip to the postseason that was all but sealed in the winter. However, a turbulent season with injuries and COVID protocol related absences which threw their roster stability , goaltending, and depth into chaos was addressed, and Hakstol’s squad got off the ground running early last season. 

They went 15-5-3 through the first two months of the year, became the first team in NHL history to run the table on a seven-game road trip, and clinched the first wild card spot in the Western Conference before knocking out the Colorado Avalanche in the first round, while becoming the first team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to eliminate a defending champion in their series debut. 

Keep in mind they did all of this without a team captain, a role nobody has filled since Mark Giordano departed at the previous season's trade deadline. Hakstol said in May the decision to name a team captain is still a work in progress, but shifted focus onto a collective leadership group that carried out last season's plan, all with core values that delivered results.

"Staying even keeled, staying positive, knowing when to push, knowing when to take a breath, relax and look at the next challenge," said Hakstol. "The perspective that our leadership group inside the dressing room brought to the team was really effective."

Hakstol is 207-178-56 in six seasons as head coach in Seattle and Philadelphia, becoming the first coach in 33 years to move into the NHL out of the college ranks, previously working in a decorated role at North Dakota. The late “Badger” Bob Johnson was the previous to do it, going from Wisconsin to the Calgary Flames. 

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