According to media reports out of Calgary, Abbotsford Heat head coach Jim Playfair is poised to depart for an assistant coaching position with the Phoenix Coyotes.
But as of Friday morning, there was no deal in place for Playfair to return to the NHL.
The Heat bench boss told The News that the Coyotes have asked the Calgary Flames, the Heat’s NHL parent club, for permission to speak to him, and that conversations have taken place. But he downplayed the notion his departure is imminent, noting he’s spoken to other NHL teams as well.
“I’ve had talks with them (the Coyotes), but there’s nothing to announce right now,” he said.
A Calgary Sun story indicated Playfair had been offered an assistant’s job on Dave Tippett’s staff in Phoenix, and had until Friday to accept. The Calgary Herald said Playfair was “close to agreeing.”
The two guaranteed years of Playfair’s contract with the Heat expired following the 2010-11 season, but the Flames announced on May 16 that they had picked up the option year for 2011-12. Playfair told The News he has a window in his contract where he could listen to overtures from other NHL teams.
The Fort St. James, B.C. native has NHL head coaching experience, having helmed the Flames during the 2006-07 season. He was replaced by Mike Keenan the following year, and served as an associate coach in Calgary before accepting the top job in Abbotsford in 2009.
Under Playfair, the Heat went 77-61-9-13 over their first two American Hockey League campaigns.
He steered the Heat to the Calder Cup playoffs in 2009-10, where they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Rochester Americans in the first round. They fell in six games to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the North Division final.
Last season, the Heat were the youngest team in the AHL, and narrowly missed the playoffs with a 38-32-4-6 record.