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Dave Tippett heads to Edmonton Oilers leaving questions about NHL Seattle’s next steps

01 November 2014: Arizona head coach Dave Tippett. The Carolina Hurricanes played the Arizona Coyotes at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina in a 2014-15 National Hockey League game.

By Andy Eide

It turns out that Dave Tippett will serve behind the bench as head coach in the new Seattle Center Arena, it will just be behind the visitors’ bench. Tippett, the now former Senior Advisor to NHL Seattle, was announced Tuesday morning as the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers and Tippett speculation began shortly after the club hired Ken Holland to be its new general manager on May 7th. Word started to leak over the Memorial Day weekend that a deal was imminent and was confirmed Tuesday morning.

“Dave brings a wealth of experience and knowledge,” Holland said during a Tuesday press conference. “He is a great communicator and has consistently led teams known for their level of compete. I look forward to seeing Dave guide the Oilers this fall.”

Tippett’s new deal is for three years and reportedly worth somewhere between $2.75 and $3 million per season.

“The coaching bug got to me,” Tippett stated Tuesday morning.

Tippett was NHL Seattle’s first hockey hire and spent a year helping the fledgling franchise create a hockey operations infrastructure. He worked on the design of the dressing rooms in the new arena as well as required necessities of the practice facility that is going to be built at the Northgate Mall.

In a statement released to the media, NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke praised that work as “forming the blueprint” for the team’s hockey operations.

“Coaching is his passion, and this is a great opportunity for Dave to return to the bench,” Leiweke’s statement continued. “Dave will always be a great friend to our organization. We wish him well in Edmonton.”

There was always the question about whether or not he was in Seattle to be the eventual coach, something he said from the beginning would have to be a wait and see prospect.

“I got to help design a hockey operations department,” Tippett said Tuesday of his time in Seattle. “I never went with the intention of becoming a GM, I have no desire to become a GM. As far as the coaching, when (Seattle’s start) got pushed back from 2020 to 2021 that would have been four years out…I can’t say enough good things about Seattle, that’s going to be a terrific franchise.”

With Seattle, he also was working on scouting an eventual location for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate and was involved in the search for the team’s first general manager.

On February 1st, Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke told KING 5 that an announcement of the AHL franchise would be made in the next ’30 to 60 days’ but that time frame has passed without any word. It’s unclear how Tippett’s departure will affect that decision moving forward.

The search for a general manager also continues.

Two names that had been linked as possibilities in Seattle have been hired elsewhere. First, Vegas Golden Knights Assistant General Manager Kelly McCrimmon was promoted and retained by Vegas. Then, Holland, who was speculated about as a possibility in Seattle, left the Detroit Red Wings to take over the General Manager position in Edmonton. The Detroit job was filled by Steve Yzerman, another name connected to NHL Seattle.

It was recently reported that Columbus Blue Jackets Assistant General Manager Bill Zito was in Seattle to interview for the job but he left without an offer. There has not been a published timeline by NHL Seattle to hire a general manager and the club very well may wait until it finds the right fit.

Where the team goes from here on the AHL team and the general manager front, or if a new adviser will be brought in to pick up where Tippett left off, is unclear as team management were not made available to NHL to Seattle for further clarification.

For Tippett, the Oilers job is his third NHL head coaching gig and he takes over for Ken Hitchcock, who was a mid-season replacement for the fired Todd McLellan.

Tippett previously coached the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes after an assistant coaching job with the Los Angeles Kings. He won the Jack Adams award for coach of the year in 2010 and brings a 553-413-148 coaching record to Edmonton with him. He’s twice led a team – Dallas in 2008, Phoenix in 2012 – to the Western Conference Finals.

He will have some big time assets to work with in Connor McDavid – regarded as the game’s best player – and Leon Draisaitl. Both players are coming off of 100-point seasons but the Oilers failed to make the playoffs for the third time since drafting McDavid first overall in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Edmonton has some bad contracts that Holland and Tippett will have to contend with but not many franchises can boast the same top-line talent that the Oilers have.

As NHL Seattle’s first ‘hockey hire’, Tippett leaves after having his fingerprints all over the franchise and playing the role of public ambassador for the team. The work he’s done over the past year won’t always be visible on the surface but when the still-to-be named team takes the ice in 2021, he’ll have played a huge role. We are a long way away from knowing what the 2021 schedule will look like but it would seem fitting to have the first NHL Seattle home game be against the division rival Edmonton Oilers, and Dave Tippett.

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