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Which vacant NHL head coaching job is most appealing?

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With 24 of the NHL's 32 teams in offseason mode, the coaching carousel is starting to spin. On Tuesday alone the St. Louis Blues removed the interim tag from Drew Bannister and the Ottawa Senators tabbed Travis Green as their next head coach. The Buffalo Sabres brought back Lindy Ruff in April.

But there are still six openings - five if you exclude one team that has yet to make a decision on its interim bench boss. There are plenty of experienced coaches available, too, including Craig Berube, Todd McLellan, Gerard Gallant, Sheldon Keefe, Jay Woodcroft, Dean Evason, and Dave Hakstol.

Below, we'll rank the six coaching jobs by appeal. This is not based solely on how good the team is right now but also the stability of the organization's ownership and front office, the club's future outlook, and the off-ice living environment.

6. San Jose Sharks

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  • First overall pick
  • $38M in cap space
  • Nice weather


  • NHL's worst roster
  • Rebuild in early stages
  • $7.3M in dead cap
  • Inexperienced GM
  • Absent owner

Coaching the projected No. 1 pick, Macklin Celebrini, will be appealing and living in the Bay Area would be nice, but the reality is this is likely a dead-end job. It's hard to imagine the next coach making it out of the rebuild stage.

The Sharks are at least four or five years away from competing - potentially longer considering general manager Mike Grier's minimal front-office experience. That's not to say Grier can't turn the Sharks around, but three years ago he was the assistant coach on a prep school team. The leadership above him isn't the most inspiring, either, as owner Hasso Plattner is rarely seen around the team.

It will be difficult for the Sharks to lure the most distinguished coaches. Their best bet is to hire someone without NHL head coaching experience who wants to bring in fresh ideas. Most importantly, San Jose's next coach must excel at player development.

5. Winnipeg Jets

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  • Playoff-caliber roster
  • All-world goaltender
  • Good amateur scouting staff
  • Passionate fan base


  • Extremely difficult to attract free agents
  • Small market
  • Miserable weather
  • Unstable long-term viability

The Jets posted the NHL's fourth-best record in 2023-24 and project to be a strong team once again next season. Deadline acquisitions Sean Monahan and Tyler Toffoli are pending UFAs, as are defensemen Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo, but the rest of the roster is expected to remain intact.

Winnipeg was overmatched by the Colorado Avalanche in Round 1, but it's still easy to see the intrigue of coaching a team led by perennial Vezina Trophy candidate Connor Hellebuyck. With the right defensive infrastructure in front of him, a deep playoff run isn't out of the question.

However, the frigid winters could scare off some candidates. And while Winnipeg isn't a big market, there's still the added pressure and media attention of coaching a Canadian team that's expected to contend.

For a head coach hoping to stick around for the long haul, the club's declining attendance numbers in a small rink don't bode well for the future.

4. Seattle Kraken

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  • Roster depth
  • Good farm system
  • No state income tax
  • Newly renovated arena


  • Roster lacks high-end talent
  • Unclear direction
  • Grubauer's contract

The Kraken are in NHL purgatory. They're not quite good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup but not quite bad enough to bottom out and secure an elite talent high in the draft. They should still get a solid player at No. 8, though.

The job certainly has its perks. Ron Francis is a patient, calculated GM who has built a solid farm system despite only having three draft classes to work with. The ownership group, led by David Bonderman, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Tod Leiweke, is wealthy and committed to winning.

Living in a widely acclaimed city like Seattle will also appeal to candidates. And without any state income tax in Washington, the Kraken should be able to sign players for slightly below market value.

But despite the off-ice perks, the Kraken aren't higher on this list due to the middling roster, which is bogged down by Philipp Grubauer's contract. The German netminder still has three years on his deal at a $5.9-million cap hit but has posted a sub-.900 save percentage in each of his three seasons in Seattle.

3. Los Angeles Kings

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  • Talented roster
  • Veteran core still performing
  • Byfield leading next wave
  • Nice weather
  • Wealthy ownership


  • Dubois' contract
  • Goaltending questions

The Kings have yet to make a decision on interim head coach Jim Hiller. He posted a solid 21-12-1 regular-season record after Todd McLellan was fired but couldn't push them past the Edmonton Oilers in Round 1, so the club could look in a different direction.

It's an intriguing job, though, considering future Hall of Famers Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still performing at a high level. Adrian Kempe and Kevin Fiala are in their primes, and 21-year-old Quinton Byfield is loaded with potential.

The forward depth is impressive and the blue line is strong, but there are major question marks between the pipes. The duo of Cam Talbot and David Rittich played well this year, but the two pending UFAs aren't legitimate starting goalies anymore.

Pierre-Luc Dubois' contract could also prove to be a major issue. The club's marquee investment last offseason managed just 40 points in 82 games despite carrying an $8.5-million cap hit for the next seven years. The next coach must get the most out of Dubois.

While it's not a perfect situation on the ice, the opportunity to live in sunny Los Angeles definitely gives this opening a boost.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

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  • Talented roster with prime Matthews
  • Cap space opening up
  • NHL's wealthiest organization
  • Large, passionate fan base
  • Can achieve legend status if you win


  • Among the most stressful jobs in sports
  • High-pressure market, constant attention
  • Defense needs overhaul
  • Goaltending questions
  • Poor prospect pipeline

Coaching the Maple Leafs is one of the most high-risk, high-reward jobs in professional sports. It will be mentally taxing. There will be constant scrutiny if the team underperforms. It will be nearly impossible to walk the city's streets without being recognized. There's even a good chance the team is just cursed. Yet, the coach who can deliver the franchise its first Stanley Cup since 1967 will be treated like royalty and remembered forever.

The coach of the Leafs will also have every resource at his disposal. Spending to the cap every year? No problem. State-of-the-art facilities? Check. Enormous budget for assistant coaches and other staff members? Done.

It also presents the chance to coach a roster that has made the playoffs eight straight years - tied for the NHL's longest active streak - led by a perennial Hart Trophy candidate in Auston Matthews at the height of his powers.

There's a perceived cap crunch in Toronto, with four players scheduled to take up $46.7 million on the cap in 2024-25. However, John Tavares' $11 million comes off the books after next season. It's also possible Mitch Marner, who has one year left at $10.9 million, is traded.

There are major needs, however. Three defensemen are required, with at least two who can play the right side and two who can handle top-four duties. The club could also use another middle-six center or two, plus a tandem-mate for goalie Joseph Woll. GM Brad Treliving has a lot on his plate, but it all starts with finding the right person to lead the charge behind the bench.

1. New Jersey Devils

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  • Highly talented, ascending roster
  • Good cap structure
  • $20M in cap space
  • Savvy front office
  • Wealthy ownership


  • Poor goaltending
  • Palat's contract

The Devils job contains very little downside and a whole lot of upside. In fact, many had the club pegged as a Stanley Cup contender entering 2023-24 before goaltending and injury woes torpedoed its season.

Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and several other cornerstone pieces are locked up with team-friendly, long-term deals. Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, a pair of 20-year-old defensemen, have star potential.

The Devils' blue line is set. The forward nucleus is strong, though some depth pieces are needed.

The three years remaining at $6 million per season for 33-year-old Ondrej Palat is less than ideal, but one bad contract is tolerable considering all the other bargains on the roster. Palat is still a solid third-line checker, too.

But the biggest question mark is in goal, as New Jersey ranked 30th in the league in save percentage this past season. However, Jake Allen was acquired at the deadline and is under contract for another season as a veteran backup. A starter is needed, but GM Tom Fitzgerald has already vowed to go big-game hunting for a goalie. If he could land Jacob Markstrom, as he tried to at the deadline, New Jersey could be a Cup contender next year if everything goes right.

There are also no off-ice concerns with the organization. The team's arena, the Prudential Center, is relatively new, and the ownership group, led by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, is both wealthy and passionate about sports. (They also own the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, and Harris recently purchased the NFL's Washington Commanders.)

If Fitzgerald can adequately address the goaltending, there will be very little downside to this job.

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