Perhaps there are still details to resolve, but this much seems clear: There is mutual interest in Barry Trotz returning as the Washington Capitals’ head coach. Immediately after the team won the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas last Thursday, General Manager Brian MacLellan said that if Trotz “wants to be back, he’ll be back.” So what does Trotz want?
“I do want to be back,” he said Wednesday, when the Capitals conducted exit interviews with the players and collected their equipment before they went their separate ways for the summer. “There are some things that we have to work out. I’ve talked to Mac. If we can get them worked out, then there’s no question. I love the group of guys. I love the situation I’m in with the team, the location for my son and my wife and all that. So all that’s in place.
“There’s some issues that we’ve got to just work through, and we will and we’ll go from there. We’ll just work through it.”
Trotz, 55, is under contract through July 1. After he spent the season as a lame-duck coach, not offered an extension on his original four-year deal before the season, there was some concern he might choose to step away or pursue other opportunities. The New York Islanders are the only team with a head-coaching vacancy, but Trotz, the fifth-winningest NHL coach all-time with a Stanley Cup now on his résumé, would have plenty of suitors.
MacLellan said a deal doesn’t necessarily have to get done before July 1.
“We’re going to try,” MacLellan said. “I talked to Barry this morning. I’ll talk to ownership over the next week or so and we’ll continue to discuss everything and see where it goes. … I don’t think either side feels any pressure. If both sides to come to an agreement and it works for both sides, it’ll work.”
Trotz was making $1.5 million per year, according to CapFriendly.com, and retaining him would mean a significant pay raise that puts his salary in the neighborhood of some of the highest-paid coaches in the league. Over his tenure, the Capitals have won the Presidents’ Trophy twice as the regular season’s top team and claimed three Metropolitan Division crowns. They advanced to the second round of the playoffs all four years, finally breaking beyond that barrier this season.
Montreal Coach Claude Julien signed a five-year, $25 million contract in the middle of last season. Toronto’s Mike Babcock is the highest-paid coach, with a $6.25 million salary. Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, who has won three championships, signed a reported three-year, $18 million extension in 2016. Trotz’s number would likely be lower, but not by that much.
Trotz was asked if he expects to sign an extension. “We’re talking about that,” he said. And would he expect to maintain the same coaching staff around him?
“There’s a few issues we have to work through,” he said.
Todd Reirden was promoted to associate coach before the 2016-17 season, and he was believed to be a coach-in-waiting this year in case Trotz was let go during the season. That created tension between the two men, especially with Reirden’s contract running a year past Trotz’s. Reirden was prohibited from interviewing for head-coaching openings last summer, but MacLellan said he would be allowed to do so this time. But the double-edged sword of a deep playoff run is that most teams who fired their coaches have hired new ones by now.
“When we signed Todd to an associate coach, we had an agreement for one year that we would restrict his ability to interview,” MacLellan said. “And that’ll be up after this year.”
Trotz managed a roster this season that had four rookies regularly in the lineup, a group that was considered less-talented and less-experienced than any other in his past three campaigns with Washington. His relaxed demeanor during the postseason seemed to have a positive impact on a team that was known for its nervy play in past springs. Players said they haven’t gotten an indication from Trotz about whether he might be back next season, but after the group won the Stanley Cup several expressed hope that he would return.
“Yeah, why not? Why wouldn’t you?” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “For me and for all the guys, basically it’s his decision. He have to do it right, and I’m pretty sure he will do it the right way.”
Said defenseman Matt Niskanen: “Barry was the right coach for this group. Barry is a real solid human being — just a great dude. The things that he preaches turn out to be really important. It worked for our group. He’s a heck of a coach, fun to play for. I think everyone has a ton of respect for him. So we’ll what happens in the next little bit whether he’s coming back or not.”
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