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Zulgad’s Roundup: Three-year contract extension provides Dean Evason with security

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Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason, center top right, yells to his team during the third period of an NHL preseason hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

When Wild general manager Bill Guerin fired Bruce Boudreau and named Dean Evason coach in 2020, no one expected that Evason would be anything more than an interim replacement and that Guerin would name a permanent coach before the 2020-21 season.

Evason had been an assistant on Boudreau’s staff because the previous general manager, Paul Fenton, had hired him during his brief tenure. The Fenton-Evason connection was strong, with Fenton having served as assistant GM of the Nashville Predators and Evason having coached the Predators’ AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

But Guerin and Evason had no real connection and the name that kept coming up as Guerin’s likely choice was that of his longtime friend and former teammate Doug Weight. Weight and Guerin had played together on three different NHL teams and nine times in all on various clubs. They both were inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. Weight coached the New York Islanders for part of 2016-17 and all of the following season.

But Guerin liked what he saw as Evason led the Wild to an 8-4 record in 2020 before the season was stopped during the pandemic. Evason received a two-year contract before the Wild lost to Vancouver in four games in the qualifying round of the bubble in August 2020 and he is now 62-29-7 in 98 games. With Evason in the last season of his contract, the Wild led the Western Conference in points this season before an 11-day break caused by COVID.

On Thursday, Guerin changed that by signing the 57-year-old Evason to a three-year contract extension that eliminates the chance of him becoming a coaching free agent after the season. Evason’s assistant coaches also received extensions.

“They’ve proven that they’re a very capable staff and all good coaches … the turnaround of our team is evident of that,” Guerin told reporters. “So it was just a matter of getting around to it and Dean and I finding some time to hammer it out.”

Guerin and Evason have worked closely on reshaping the Wild roster. That includes the expensive but necessary decision to buy out both winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter last offseason. The locker room looks very different than when Guerin arrived, and Evason is the first Wild coach since Jacques Lemaire who is clearly in charge.

The Wild still need to have their first extended playoff run since 2003 before anyone is satisfied — Minnesota was eliminated in seven games by Vegas last season — but there is no question Evason appears to have his team on the right track.

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  • The Vikings already shorthanded cornerback situation took another hit Thursday when Cameron Dantzler missed practice because of a calf injury. Dantzer was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Dantzler has started six of the 13 games in which he’s played in this season, including the past two. The Vikings released veteran Bashaud Breeland on Dec. 18 after an incident in practice. If Dantzler can’t play, it’s likely Kris Boyd will take his place.
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