Andrew Brunette will return behind an NHL bench this coming season — but it will not be with the Florida Panthers.
On Wednesday morning, NHL Insider Kevin Weekes announced the former interim head coach of the Panthers was joining Lindy Ruff’s staff with the New Jersey Devils.
According to Weekes, Brunette gets a three-year contract.
Brunette had one year remaining with the Panthers and the team — from GM Bill Zito to new coach Paul Maurice — made it clear they wanted Brunette to return.
The Panthers, of course, replaced Brunette behind the bench with the hiring of Maurice last month.
Brunette took over as the Panthers’ bench boss when Joel Quenneville suddenly resigned in the wake of the Kyle Beach sexual assault scandal with the Blackhawks.
As Florida’s interim coach, Brunette led Florida to its best regular season in franchise history as the team won the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record in the league.
Brunette was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for top coach in the league.
”I learned a lot,’’ said Brunette, who was the Atlantic coach at All-Star weekend and finished second in the Jack Adams voting for NHL Coach of the Year. “I think I will take it with me and grow as a coach.”
As far as wanting the Panthers job full-time, Brunette said that he did.
Florida ended up interviewing a number of candidates — while allowing Brunette to look for work elsewhere — before landing on Maurice.
“I mean, I love this team. Of course, I would love to,” Brunette said. “But those aren’t really my decisions. I have family I have to talk to and see … we were kind of thrown into this a little bit. I have to talk to my wife and see if, after playing for 20 years, if she’s on board for this.
”But, I love this group and I believe in it. I believe in them and am really proud of what they have accomplished. I think there is more.”