Arturs Irbe will not be returning to the Capitals for the 2011-12 season, the team confirmed Thursday. A team spokesman said that Irbe, whose contract will expire at the end of June, opted to leave for “family and personal reasons.”
Irbe, 44, spent the past two seasons as Washington’s goaltending coach, helping the organization’s trio of young goaltenders – Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtlby – make the transition to the NHL. This past year, the Capitals became the first team in league history with three goaltenders age 22 or younger with 10 or more wins in a season, with Irbe credited for the development of all three players.
Irbe’s time with the Capitals was his first NHL coaching job, coming after a year of coaching goaltenders for the KHL’s Dinamo Riga in his hometown and 13 seasons in the NHL. His departure was first reported on Twitter by Japer’s Rink.
The Latvia native was hired in 2009, in part because of his ability to speak Russian and communicate with Varlamov, who is a restricted free agent this summer. Whether Irbe’s departure plays a part in determining Varlamov’s future with the Capitals or impacts the continued progress of either Neuvirth or Holtby remains to be seen.
The Capitals plan to have a goaltending coach in place for the start of the 2011-12 season.