It was well known that new Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle would have several very high profile coaching decisions to make in the near future since he took over the job in June. According to Patrick Reusse (who would have thought HE would break this news) the first of those decisions has been made, and Coyle has extended the contract of Gopher Hockey coach Don Lucia two additional seasons until the end of the 2018-19 season.
Gophers AD Mark Coyle has tendered 2-yr contract extension to men's hockey coach Don Lucia to take him through 2018-19 season.— Patrick Reusse (@1500ESPN_Reusse) July 19, 2016
Lucia will receive between $550,000 and $6000,000, with $200,000 of that in the "media'' category.— Patrick Reusse (@1500ESPN_Reusse) July 19, 2016
Lucia's contract was due to expire after the upcoming 2016-17 season. His contract status was in limbo with the lack of a permanent athletic director until Coyle was hired in June. Lucia's future was in a bit of doubt despite winning five straight regular season conference championships and playing in the 2014 NCAA Championship game. Many boosters were unhappy that the Gophers missed the 2016 NCAA Tournament and that several high profile recruits had spurned the Gophers for North Dakota, UMD and others in recent seasons.
The two year extension gives Coyle and Lucia a bit of breathing room to determine his long term future as Gopher coach. Lucia has explicitly said he does not see himself coaching forever, and may retire at some point. Coyle also gets a few years reprieve to completely evaluate the program and determine if it is headed in the right direction, while also potentially evaluating potential Lucia successors both inside and outside of the program. It also allows him to make decisions on several of the other major coaching positions in men's athletics that have a cloud of uncertainty over the next two seasons and not have to worry about the hockey program
This decision was generally expected, and it would not shock me to see that at the end of this current contract Lucia retires and a new regime takes over. However, only time will tell.