McKenzie on Cooper, Lightning, contract extension

Jon Cooper has his Tampa Bay Lightning atop the NHL by a comfortable margin, but the head coach is still without a contract for next season.

Bob McKenzie had a Wednesday evening NBCSN TV hit during the pregame show of the Blackhawks-Leafs game.

The Insider was asked for the latest on Cooper’s contract situation.

“Well, it’s really interesting because the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win the Presidents’ Trophy,” began McKenzie. “And as you say, Jon Cooper could well win the Adams Trophy. And we saw a situation last year where Barry Trotz won the Stanley Cup on an expiring contract, and off he went to the New York Islanders, and Todd Reirden took his place.

“Now, I’m not saying the same thing will happen with Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it is worth noting that his contract is up at the end of the season, and it’s unusual for coaches of that caliber, especially coaching a team like the Lightning, to get to this stage of the season and not have a contract.

“Now, that doesn’t mean he won’t. Cooper wants to stay in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Lightning want Jon Cooper. But there’s obviously a negotiation here. He’s making $2.25 million on the final year of his deal. As we know, there’s been a big salary escalation for coaches like the guy here, and especially Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville, who used to coach these Chicago Blackhawks.

“So Cooper obviously wants to be paid fairly. The fact that he works and lives in a tax-free state, more or less, probably helps his cause - as it does when Kucherov and Stamkos and Hedman took less than market value contracts.

“But we’ll keep an eye on this one. I’m not predicting that Jon Cooper is going anywhere, but the negotiation has to take place.”