Brind’Amour-Dundon-Hurricanes Drama:
What Do Top NHL Coaches Make These Days?
What Have Carolina’s Owner, Coach Said So Far?
(We’ve Had Multiple, Exclusive Interviews With Both)

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

When Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon hired Rod Brind’Amour in May 2018, it made sense that Brind’Amour ranked among the lowest-paid head coaches in the National Hockey League.

Dundon was the first-year owner of a downtrodden, small-market franchise that had missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons, marking one of the longest postseason droughts in NHL history. Brind’Amour had never been a head coach — at any level.

Brind’Amour’s initial head coaching contract paid him $600,000 per year. That made him the lowest-paid NHL head coach, and there were even some veteran assistant coaches with slightly higher salaries in those early years of the deal.

A 2021 contract extension raised Brind’Amour’s salary to about $1.8 million per year.

Nevertheless, despite a six-year head coaching resume (278-130-44 regular season, six straight playoff trips, seven postseason series victories) that arguably ranks among the top half-dozen active NHL coaches during that period, his salary remains well below the league average, which was more than $2.5 million per year over the past two seasons.

“I know it’s not going to be an easy negotiation,” Brind’Amour told David Glenn of the North Carolina Sports Network before the 2023-24 season. “I can tell you that.”

Earlier this year, Dundon sounded extremely optimistic about finalizing a new contract extension with Brind’Amour.

“This is easy: Rod’s gonna be the coach,” Dundon said in an exclusive interview with Glenn. “We’ll figure it out. He runs this place. He’ll be the coach as long as he wants to coach, I’ll tell you that.”

Nevertheless, in recent weeks, many Hurricanes fans have grown restless, as national reports of a negotiating stalemate were followed by much more optimistic public comments from both Brind’Amour and Carolina general manager Don Waddell.

“We talk daily about it. I feel confident, as I’ve said before, that this deal will get done,” Waddell said. “Rod wants to be a Hurricane for life.”

“I feel really good that we’ll figure it out quickly,” Brind’Amour said. “Yeah, I’m not concerned.”

Those comments came one week ago, after the Hurricanes had eliminated the New York Islanders in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

Now the Hurricanes trail the New York Rangers 2-0 in their second-round series, with Game 3 (Thursday) and Game 4 (Saturday) coming up in Raleigh. That deficit, along with the lack of a resolution/announcement on Brind’Amour’s contract status, has many Canes fans doubly restless.

Dundon’s track record in Raleigh includes both a willingness to spend big for the Hurricanes’ most valuable assets (e.g., star center Sebastian Aho’s recent eight-year, $72 million contract) and, on the other hand, an unwillingness to spend more than he deems necessary for anyone he considers less connected to his goals of producing more victories and/or additional revenue (e.g., popular — and now former — Hurricanes play-by-play voices Chuck Kaiton and John Forslund).

Those contrasting realities have contributed to speculation that one of the current sticking points in the Dundon-Brind’Amour negotiations involves Brind’Amour’s requests for significant compensation bumps for his assistant coaches and members of his support staff, people Dundon may view as more replaceable and/or less central to the franchise’s core goals of winning big … and making good money along the way.

One thing Dundon and Brind’Amour definitely agree on is that the head coach deserves a big raise. During the ongoing 2023-24 season, Brind’Amour has received roughly 33-40 percent (see chart below) of what the highest-paid NHL head coaches have made.

Top NHL Coaching Salaries^
Coach, Team, 2023-24 Salary Unless Noted

1. Mike Sullivan*, Pittsburgh Penguins, $5,5 million!
2. Jon Cooper*, Tampa Bay Lightning, $5.3 million
3. Todd McLellan#, Los Angeles Kings, $5 million
4. Jared Bednar*, Colorado Avalanche, $4.95 million!
5. Peter Laviolette*, New York Rangers, $4.9 million
6. Bruce Cassidy*, Vegas Golden Knights, $4.5 million
7. Peter DeBoer, Dallas Stars, $4.25 million
8. Mike Babcock*#, Columbus Blue Jackets, $4 million
9. John Tortorella*, Philadelphia Flyers, $4 million
10. Paul Maurice, Florida Panthers, $3.9 million
11. Craig Berube*#, St. Louis Blues, $3.5 million
12. Martin St. Louis, Montreal Canadiens, $3 million

*—has led a team(s) to Stanley Cup title
!—this amount is for next season (2024-25)
#—fired during/after 2023-24 season
^—contract details not available for every NHL head coach

Not surprisingly, eight of the 11 highest-paid NHL head coaches listed in the chart above already are members of the Stanley Cup club. (As indicated in the chart, two of those coaches were fired during the 2023-24 season.) Although Brind’Amour famously captured the Cup as a player, while the Hurricanes’ team captain in 2006, he hasn’t yet come close to one in his relatively brief time as a head coach.

However, several other prominent NHL head coaches have signed huge contracts in recent years despite not yet reaching hockey’s promised land, and some of them have career averages that are inferior to those of Brind’Amour, albeit over much longer head coaching tenures and with multiple franchises.

Coach, Team, 2023-24 Salary, Career Points Pct./Winning Pct.

Todd McLellan, Kings, $5M, .581 RS, 42-46 (.477) postseason
Peter DeBoer, Stars, $4.25M, .581 RS, 82-68 (.547) postseason
Paul Maurice, Panthers, $3.9M, .536 RS, 58-61 (.487) postseason
Rod Brind’Amour, Hurricanes, $1.8M, .664 RS, 36-34 (.514) postseason

Clearly, making sense of the “cents” now, with the Hurricanes going six-for-six on playoff appearances (with two trips to the Eastern Conference finals) under Brind’Amour and the coach now in the final months of his revised deal, has become an entirely different matter here in 2024 than it was in either 2018 or 2021.

“You sound like my wife now: ‘You should be paid like that guy,’” Brind’Amour said, laughing.

“Everyone wants to be treated fairly. I think, at the end of the day, your salary is one area, but there’s a ton of other areas. There’s my relationship with my team and my owner and how we get to decide on who stays. I don’t know that any coach, in any sport, has what I have (with the Hurricanes). So that’s maybe priceless in some regard.

“I don’t want to sell myself short, because that’s kinda what you’re doing (when you speak openly about your strong preference to stay), but everyone knows — I’ve made no bones about it — this is my team, this is my home. How many guys get to coach where they live and coach the team that they played on? What’s that worth to you? That’s a lot.

“I also look at the team that I have. We’ve talked about it. You know some of these guys. It’s not always about the other thing (money).

“So, yes, you gotta be treated fairly. I know Tom’s a business guy. If he can get somebody for a nickel, he’s gonna do it, right? (Laughs.) I’m sure we’ll work all that out at some point.”