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Lightning sign Cooper to multiyear contract extension

by Corey Long

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed coach Jon Cooper to a multiyear contract extension, general manager Steve Yzerman said Friday.

Cooper was named the eighth coach in Lightning history on March 25, 2013. The 48-year-old native of Prince George, British Columbia, is 112-70-23, a .602 winning percentage in 205 games.

However, after advancing to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning are 12-11-3 this season, sixth in the Atlantic Division entering their game at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

"There's no significance to the timing of the contract," Yzerman said when asked about announcing the extension with the Lightning off to a slow start. Cooper's current contract expires after this season.

Cooper has coached the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his two full seasons. On April 11, 2015, Cooper got his 100th NHL win, making him the fifth-fastest coach to do so among those who debuted in the NHL since 2000. He was a finalist for the 2014 Jack Adams Award, given annually to the NHL's top coach.

"I've said all along, it's a privilege to coach in this league and it's an honor to be able to do it for the Tampa Bay Lightning," Cooper said after practice Friday in San Jose. "And to work for [owner[ Jeff Vinik, for what he's done for this organization and the city of Tampa, and directly report to Steve Yzerman and how he's conducted himself as a professional, and how he's conducted himself with me and this team, there's no other place I'd rather be, so for this to happen, I couldn't be happier."

Cooper has won a championship at every level he's coached. He won two in the North American Hockey League with the St. Louis Bandits, the Clark Cup in the United States Hockey League with the Green Bay Gamblers, and the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals. He was named the most outstanding coach in the AHL with Norfolk in 2012.

"This is my sixth year in the organization, and just the way I've been treated, my family has been treated and how everybody from top to bottom is treated ... you want to be a part of that," Cooper said. "But I look back and I say, 'We came here to win,' and I've been here in this organization for five years and three of those years a team in the [AHL] or the NHL has gone to the finals. And that means that things are going right."

Yzerman said taking care of Cooper's extension was an important item on his to-do list.

"I'm very pleased with the job Jon is doing," Yzerman said. "I like the way our team plays, I like the style of hockey we play. I think it's a style that's conducive to being successful in the NHL. I had the opportunity to watch him coach in Norfolk and Syracuse [of the AHL], so I was very comfortable in hiring him to coach the team in the NHL. He's an intelligent guy, he's only going to improve as a coach and only get better in all areas."

With Cooper's extension taken care of, the Lightning can turn their attention to working out a new contract for captain Steven Stamkos, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Yzerman previously said a new contract for Stamkos is his top priority, but said Friday that "One has nothing to do with the other," when asked about Cooper's extension and a new deal for Stamkos.

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