1:30 PM: The Islanders have officially announced Trotz’s hiring.
11:25 AM: Though nothing is official yet, multiple sources including Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Darren Dreger of TSN and Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic have reported that the New York Islanders are closing in on a deal with Barry Trotz to become their next head coach. Friedman reports that a deal is likely to be for five years, and worth at least $4MM. That would go along with what Arthur Staple of The Athletic (subscription required) had heard, though he suggested it would be “in the neighborhood” of $5MM per season.
Trotz is coming off a Stanley Cup championship with the Washington Capitals, but resigned on Monday after the two sides weren’t able to work out a salary for a potential two-year extension. Trotz was out of work for just a few days, and snatched up by Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders to fill their vacancy at head coach. Lamoriello had relieved Doug Weight of his coaching duties earlier this offseason after taking control of the team, and was likely waiting to see what would happen with Trotz before making a move on anyone else. Lamoriello had this to say to Andrew Gross of Newsday:
Barry brings to the New York Islanders franchise a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience and success. He is and has been one of the top coaches in the National Hockey League. I am excited to have the opportunity to work with him.
The Islanders are currently in a key negotiation with superstar John Tavares as free agency approaches, and the stability that Lamoriello and now Trotz will bring to the organization can only be a positive for the team. Though Tavares has never said anything to suggest he wouldn’t want to re-sign in New York, he’s just days away from being allowed to speak with other teams and just over a week away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Tavares would represent arguably the biggest free agent to hit the market in the salary cap era, and should command a massive long-term contract. The Islanders have the advantage of offering an eighth year, but only up until July 1st when they would be limited to seven seasons just like anyone else.
New York struggled last season keeping the puck out of their net, and after Tavares the goaltending situation is likely the biggest issue on the agenda for Lamoriello this summer. It’s now easy to make the connection between Trotz and Philipp Grubauer, the backup goaltender in Washington who is on the market after expressing that he wants a chance to start somewhere. It was Trotz who actually started the playoffs with Grubauer, believing in him as the Capitals’ best option in net ahead of a struggling Braden Holtby. While Holtby would eventually reclaim his starting role and lead the Capitals to a Stanley Cup win, Trotz obviously feels comfortable putting Grubauer out on a regular basis.
The Islanders do have a good nucleus to build around though, especially if Tavares returns for the next part of his career. Mathew Barzal showed that he can be an elite offensive producer in his first season, scoring 85 points while anchoring the second line and powerplay. The team has several solid options on the wing, and some good young defensemen in Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. While there is certainly work to be done, Trotz is not walking into a disaster that needs a complete tear down.
The team has also secured a permanent home for the future, as they are expected to move into a new facility in Belmont Park for the 2021-22 season. While that is still a few years away, a summer where they bring in Lamoriello, Trotz and lock up Tavares would certainly be a step in the right direction for a franchise that has floundered without a real home or any stability for several years.