Hockey News: Leafs Hire Babcock; Lightning Go up 2-1

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Mike Babcock Sweepstakes. It was announced yesterday that Babcock signed a monstrous eight-year, $50 million contract with the Canadian team.

That would have been quite the offer to pass up, as his former team, the Detroit Red Wings, offered a four-year deal that would have paid the head coach $3.25 million per season — an offer that would have made Babcock the highest-paid coach in the NHL. Now he has that mark by a long shot.

Mike Babcock, Maple Leafs, NHL, Toronto
Mike Babcock coached Team Canada (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

With the chatter surrounding Toronto’s future, there is one point that seems to go unnoticed outside of Detroit. Where does this news leave the Red Wings?

In quite the steady position, with all things considered. Now that Babcock has signed elsewhere (and before his contract expired, allowing the Wings to capture Toronto’s third-round pick in one of the next three seasons), Wings general manager Ken Holland can shift focus to locking up his replacement. Jeff Blashill, the Grand Rapids Griffins head coach who has one AHL championship under his belt in three seasons, is expected to be the successor to Babcock, who coached the Wings to a Stanley Cup championship in 2008. Blashill and the Griffins are awaiting their next opponent in the Calder Cup playoffs, as they will play in the conference finals next week.

Blashill was a highly sought-after coach by other NHL clubs, who were likely preparing to interview the AHL bench boss if their team did not claim Babcock. Now that the next phase of coach hiring will begin (with Toronto and the Philadelphia Flyers out of the running), it’s expected that Blashill will be the front runner for Detroit’s coaching vacancy. He has already coached multiple Red Wings (10 players from Detroit’s playoff roster), and he is currently coaching a slew of skaters who will be Red Wings in the near future.

Let’s not forget that Blashill, a former Ferris State goaltender, has a history with the Wings’ playoff starter, Petr Mrazek. The 23-year-old Czech netminder spent parts of two seasons under the tutelage of Blashill in Grand Rapids and he appears to be Detroit’s best option in net for years to come.

However, Blashill is aware of the coaching vacancies across the NHL landscape; he would almost have his pick of where to coach in 2015-16. Given the rich history of the Red Wings, accompanied with Holland’s outstanding loyalty to his employees, Detroit would seem like a Mecca for coaches looking to make the jump to the NHL stage.

For more on Babcock, Blashill and the Red Wings, as well as the Lightning’s Game 3 victory, check out the news for Thursday:

Featured post: THW’s take on Babcock’s hiring.

The Sabres are reportedly “livid” over the Babcock hiring process. [CBS Sports]

Holland says there are “mixed emotions” over Babcock’s departure in Detroit. [Detroit Free Press]

Blashill “wins wherever he goes.” [MLive]

The Lightning defeated the Rangers in overtime of Game 3. [Bolts by the Bay]

The Tampa Bay Lightning (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The Tampa Bay Lightning (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Henrik Lundqvist is getting lit up by the Lightning offense. [Deadspin]

The Blues retained Martin Brodeur; sign him to three-year deal as assistant GM. [St. Louis Game Time]

The Senators signed Andrew Hammond to a three-year deal. [Globe & Mail]

The Bruins signed a college-star goaltender. [Hockey Feed]