Dean Evason signed a two-year contract to remain coach of the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
"I don't know if it's a relief, but it's just extremely exciting to have the opportunity going forward here, and we're looking forward to getting going," Evason said. "I'm going to go about my business to the best of my ability. I'm confident that it's going to give us the best opportunity to have success."
The Wild went 8-4-0 under Evason after Bruce Boudreau was fired as coach Feb. 14 and were third in the NHL in scoring (3.58 goals per game), 17th in goals-against (2.92 per game) and fourth on the penalty kill (91.2 percent). Each was a significant improvement after Minnesota was 16th in the NHL in scoring (3.07 goals per game), 24th in goals-against (3.19 per game) and 30th on the penalty kill (74.4) in 57 games under Boudreau this season.
"I probably made the decision in my head about a month ago. I just wanted to wait and sleep on it a couple of times," Wild general manager Bill Guerin said. "I was pretty confident I was going to make the right decision. … The more I talked about it, the more confident I was that this was the right decision. I wanted Dean to be able to walk into the [Stanley Cup Qualifiers] as the head coach and get rid of that interim tag. This is something that he's worked long and hard for and he's earned it. I'm confident that this was the right decision."
Evason helped the Wild (35-27-7, .558 points percentage) climb within one point of the second wild card in the Western Conference before the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. They will enter the Qualifiers as the No. 10 seed and play the No. 7 seed, the Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, .565), in one of eight best-of-5 series, beginning at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Aug. 2. The winner of each series will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the loser will have a 12.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, which will be held Aug. 10.
"Dean deserves the opportunity and I'm excited for the opportunity ahead," Wild forward Eric Staal said Tuesday. "He's put the time in. That guy's coached a lot of different places … I know when he first got the job as the interim coach he was super-excited and pumped and now obviously having that removed and him getting the opportunity to be a head coach of an NHL team is well-deserved. … Us as players are excited to play for him."
Prior to being hired as an assistant under Boudreau on June 6, 2018, Evason went 242-161-53 in six seasons as coach of Milwaukee in the American Hockey League (2012-18). Before that, he spent seven seasons as an assistant with the Washington Capitals (2005-12).
"I've had many experiences to get to this opportunity," Evason said. "I'm going to draw on all of them and obviously lean on the staff. We've got a great hockey staff here that is very committed. Pressure is what you feel and put on yourself. I put high expectations on myself to be the best coach that I possible can to lead the group to have success."
Evason was selected by the Capitals in the fifth round (No. 89) of the 1982 NHL Draft. He had 372 points (139 goals, 233 assists) in 803 games over 13 NHL seasons with the Capitals, Hartford Whalers, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames.
"To be perfectly honest with you, all along I had planned on doing a full (coaching) search," Guerin said. "I was upfront and honest about that with Dean. As we kind of went on, the team played really well under Dean. When the pause in the season started, I could see Dean's communication with the players and how good it was. As I was discussing with my hockey ops group, this was the type of guy that we're looking for and if he's right under our nose right now, I didn't really feel like I needed to go any further."
NHL.com staff writer Pete Jensen contributed to this report