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Pens ink Therrien to 3-year deal

| Saturday, July 19, 2008

They like Mike.

Nobody was quite sure of that last summer, when the Penguins gave coach Michel (Mike) Therrien only a one-year contract extension after he led his team to a 47-point improvement in the standings.

Now, in the wake of a trip to the Stanley Cup final, there is no doubt -- to borrow one of Therrien's favorite expressions.

The Penguins and Therrien agreed to terms Friday on a new three-year contract that runs through the 2010-11 season. Therrien had one year left on his current deal and was to be paid $750,000 next season, but he will receive a significant raise. The new deal is worth approximately $1 million annually, putting Therrien more in line with the better-paid coaches in the game but still not near the top.

"After the season, I talked to the staff, and we reflected on the year," general manager Ray Shero said. "Michel did a really good job. He's got a stamp on the organization. He is someone I wanted to give security and loyalty."

Therrien knew he didn't want to coach anywhere but Pittsburgh, where he has perhaps the most talented young team in the NHL.

"In my mind, I didn't want to go," he said. "My family is happy in Pittsburgh. We love it here. It's a real family affair."

That said, Therrien knows the pressure will only rise next season. The Penguins have only one more level to reach.

"We still have a lot of work to do, because we fell short of our goal last season," he said. "Our goal is, and always will be, to win the Stanley Cup."

Over the past two years, the Penguins went 94-51-19 and made two playoff appearances under Therrien, who replaced Eddie Olczyk in December 2005 following an impressive two-and-a-half year stint as head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In 2006-07, Therrien led the Penguins to the fourth-biggest turnaround in NHL history.

Therrien is one of several NHL coaches to sign a new contract this summer. Most recently, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock received a three-year deal worth $1.5 million annually. Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock signed a three-year contract last week, worth $1.33 million per season, after setting a franchise record for wins and points last season.

Other coaches, such as Toronto's Ron Wilson, make about the same or more than Hitchcock.

Therrien isn't among the highest-paid coaches in the game, but he is satisfied.

"I believe it's a really fair deal," he said.

Long coaching stints are rare in the NHL, particularly with the Penguins. If Therrien makes it through all of next season, he would become the Penguins longest-tenured coach in franchise history with 297 games. Ed Johnston, who coached 276 games from 1993-97 -- his second stint behind the bench -- is at the top of the list.

Rewarding Therrien with a three-year deal was something Shero wanted to do to show his appreciation for Therrien's success.

"When I came here two years ago, Mike was in place for me," Shero said. "I talk about loyalty from players, Mike has shown that. This is my way to show my loyalty and support to him.

"Two years ago, we went from last place (in the Eastern Conference) to a playoff spot. Last year was different in terms of expectations. Next year, the expectations will be higher because of the job he has done."

Staff writer Joe Starkey contributed to this story.

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