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Dave Tippett’s future with Coyotes looking far more certain

Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett talks to his players during the first full day of NHL hockey training camp for the team, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Canadian and American media outlets speculating on the future of Dave Tippett earlier this week, the Coyotes released a statement on behalf of their coach.

“Dave Tippett has two years left on his contract and is fully committed to the Coyotes.”

It was nearly identical to what the team said after last season’s 56-point debacle. Unlike last season, however, this year’s statement appears to accurately reflect Tippett’s mindset.

“I think they know I want to be here,” Tippett said Tuesday. “I like the direction that we’re heading in and there’s a lot to feel positive about.”

Arizona improved by 22 points over last season. The performances of rookies Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook and Louis Domingue injected a much-needed dose of energy and excitement to the team, Shane Doan had a renaissance year and another wave of youth should be on the way next season with centers Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak.

That doesn’t mean Tippett is without concerns about the future of the franchise. The Coyotes still do not know where they will be playing beyond next season when their lease at Gila River Arena runs out. They do not know who their next general manager will be after firing Don Maloney on Monday, and Tippett still doesn’t know what sort of commitment the team will make to improving the roster this offseason through free agency and trades.

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot of discussions over the next few weeks,” he said.

Tippett still has the leverage of an out-clause in his contract that he can exercise this summer to leave the franchise if he is not happy with the conclusions of those discussions, but given his current reality, that seems less and less likely to happen.

Coyotes ownership views Tippett as one of its greatest assets and Tippett has developed a good relationship with co-owner Gary Drummond, who essentially calls the shots for the hockey operations department.

With Maloney gone, it is fair to assume that ownership will grant Tippett a greater voice in key personnel decisions and the choice of a new GM. Part of Maloney’s downfall was that he had gradually insulated himself more and more from other parts of the organization, whether it was ownership or the coaching staff, cutting off the flow of information and the exchange of ideas.

Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc made it clear at Monday’s press conference that ownership wants a more collaborative and communicative GM who follows a more modern approach to leadership.

If the Coyotes can make good on a desire to improve their blue line, improve their defending and improve their possession game this summer, it makes sense that Tippett would want to stay the course after dedicating so much blood, sweat and tears over the past four playoff-less seasons.

If all goes according to the general plan, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the ownership group open discussions with Tippett on a contract extension well before he enters the final season of his deal.

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