Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

After several weeks of speculation surrounding a rumored shakeup, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said Tuesday afternoon the team would not part ways with Head Coach Barry Trotz, who led the Capitals to the NHL’s best regular-season record in consecutive seasons but has been unable to break through the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

MacLellan addressed reporters Tuesday after delaying his traditional media sitdown following the Capitals’ postseason ouster at the hands of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, who are now playing for their second Stanley Cup in as many seasons.  The team attributed the delayed timetable to a desire to conduct a thorough evaluation of the organization.

Capitals Offseason Exam

Expansion Draft | Roster Eval | Free Agent/Trade Markets

One reflexive response to the Capitals’ playoff defeat by media pundits was the suggestion to trade team captain Alex Ovechkin. MacLellan said such a move was not in the team’s best interest at the moment and he wouldn’t be stripping him of the captaincy either, but if the right deal came along at some point he would “maybe” consider it.

“People are looking for a major solution to what we have going on,” MacLellan said. “I think part of it is they watch certain things in his game, and then it shows up and they say that’s not acceptable. But he’s a big part of our franchise, a big part of our history. He’s been a big part of where we’re at as an organization and just to casually say, ‘Let’s trade him?’ For what? For who? I don’t think it makes sense from an organizational point of view. Maybe at some point if there’s a legitimate hockey deal that came available, but I don’t know if that’s where we’re at right now. I just think he’s got a history here. He’s a big part of this franchise, and he’ll continue to be going forward.”

Here are some highlights from MacLellan’s talk with reporters, as he and the franchise try to identify how the Capitals can get over the second-round hump for the first time during the Alex Ovechkin Era:


MacLellan said goaltending coach Mitch Korn’s role with the team is unclear going forward. This past season was the last on his deal, and it’s possible he retires or takes on a consulting role in Washington. The Capitals have prepared Scott Murray, who typically works with the organization’s minor league goaltenders, to potentially replace Korn’s everyday responsibilities.

“He wants to take some time to ponder his future,” MacLellan said of Korn. “I think he’s keeping it open whether he comes back. He’s talked a little bit about a consulting role. We’ve been grooming Scott Murray for a goaltending coaching job, so the transition will happen. I’m just not sure if it will be this year, next year or the year after. Mitch wants to spend more time at his home.”

Associate coach Todd Reirden is a head-coaching candidate in Florida and Buffalo, and keeping with Murray’s possible ascension, MacLellan said there could be internal replacements at the minor-league level for any assistant coaches who depart for larger roles.

Free Agency and Trades

MacLellan said re-signing the team’s restricted free agents — Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Andre Burakovsky, Nate Schmidt, Philipp Grubauer and Brett Connolly — is the top offseason priority. If there’s money left to re-sign some of the team’s pending unrestricted free agents depends on what the salary cap will be next season. If the NHLPA decides to exercise the 5 percent escalator, then the cap would be $77 million, which MacLellan said would give the Capitals a “decent” chance to keep T.J. Oshie.

MacLellan referred to the blue-line’s top four being Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Orlov and Schmidt, which would seem to indicate the organization is ready to move on from defenseman Karl Alzner.

MacLellan also said he’s open to giving long-term deals to Orlov and Kuznetsov. Though Connolly was scratched for most of the playoffs, MacLellan said he expects to offer Connolly a qualifying deal and could see him playing on the third line next season. The construction of the roster will consist of restricted free agents getting more ice time and bigger roles with young players and prospects filling in holes in the bottom six and on the defense’s third pairing.

MacLellan added that he doesn’t intend to buyout any players this summer.

“I don’t know we’ll be at this level,” MacLellan said. “I mean, we’ll be competitive. … It sure looks like Burakovsky is ready to get to the next level. You put him in a top-six role, I would assume he’s going to be successful.  How do our bottom fourth-line guys pan out, the Hershey guys? I’m not sure. I think we’re going to be a good team still. We’re going to have good top-six forwards. We’re going to have good goaltending. Schmidty and Orlov and Niskanen and Carlson should be a good top four.”

“I think he had a down year,” MacLellan said of Ovechkin. “The less ice time would correlate with less production, but I think even talking to him at the end, he was disappointed in the playoff performance and the results he had and the results our team had. He’s frustrated as much as we all are. I think for him moving forward it’s, he’s getting in the low 30s, I think he’s going to have to think of ways he can evolve into a player that still has a major impact on the game. The game’s getting faster. He’s going to have to train in a different way – a more speed way instead of a power way. He’s gonna have to make adjustments to stay [relevant] in the game.”

Expansion Draft

MacLellan said the team will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, and he’s mostly decided on who those players are, though he’s still mulling one spot.

“I mean, ideally you don’t want to lose any of them but we’re going to lose one,” MacLellan said. “We’re gonna have to react after they pick their player. We’re gonna have to fill a hole. Whatever player they pick, we’re gonna have to try and fill that hole.”

Would MacLellan consider backdoor deals to sway Vegas General Manager George McPhee to not take a certain player?

“I’m not sure George is going to be willing to tell me what player he wants,” MacLellan said. “I mean, you could, I guess, in theory. I don’t know what his preference would be at.”