Updated 12:32 p.m.

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Dale Hunter informed Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee during a meeting this morning that he will be stepping down as head coach.

“This was a tough decision,” Hunter said Monday. “It was the right thing for me and my family.”

More from Hunter: ‘They’ve got a good thing going here’

Hunter had presided over the Capitals since Nov. 28, when he replaced Bruce Boudreau, who was fired. Hunter racked up a 37-37 record (including overtime, shootout losses and playoff games) and directed Washington within a game of advancing to the franchise’s first Eastern Conference finals berth in 14 years.

“Dale and I met about 10 o’clock and he let me know that he will not be able to return as the coach,” McPhee said, speaking on breakdown day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “He’s going to head back to London [Ontario]. I guess we’re all fathers and sons and husbands first before anything else, and if we have our priorities right in this life, family comes first. And Dale needs to go home.”

Hunter signed a one-year contract when he was hired.

“I thought he did a great job of coming in and helping us out,” McPhee said. “Trying to hire a coach in the middle of the season is a difficult process. …So to have Dale available to come in, even if on a temporary basis, was something we liked a lot. That’s why we did a one year deal, because we didn’t know if he could do it beyond this season.”

McPhee also said he will take his time finding Hunter’s replacement.

“I don’t know whether it will be by the draft or sometime in August, like New Jersey did,” he added. “We’re going to take our time and get the right person.”

Asked if he attempted to persuade Hunter to stay, McPhee said he did not.

“There’s no gray in Dale’s life,” he said. “He’s very decisive. The only thing I asked Dale was, ‘Does this have anything to do with anything that’s going on here?’ He said, ‘Absolutely not. He loved it here. This is his team.’”

Hunter will address the media shortly.

More on Dale Hunter:
— Q&A: El-Bashir, Carrera at 11 a.m.
— Feinstein: Caps have issues to settle
Possible replacements for Dale Hunter
Ovechkin, Backstrom react
— Boswell reaction: UNBELIEVABLE!
— December 2011: Hunter still has work to do
— March: Hunter tied to hockey fortunes in two cities