Huge news today for the Washington Capitals, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that head coach Barry Trotz will be stepping down. Trotz was no longer in the final year of his contract as many believed. Friedman reports that winning the Stanley Cup had triggered a potential two-year extension for Trotz, but the two sides could not come to an agreement on salary. The Capitals will allow Trotz to immediately begin talking to other teams, essentially making him a free agent right away. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports that the two-year extension would have come with just a $300K salary boost, which would have kept him vastly underpaid at just $1.8MM per season. The team released a statement moments after Friedman’s report:
Barry Trotz informed the organization today of his decision to resign as head coach of the Washington Capitals. We are obviously disappointed by Barry’s decision, but would like to thank Barry for all his efforts the past four years and for helping bring the Stanley Cup to Washington. Barry is a man of high character and integrity and we are grateful for his leadership and for all that he has done for our franchise.
The only current other opening in the NHL for a head coach is with the New York Islanders, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Trotz is headed to work with Lou Lamoriello. As we’ve seen in the past, teams are willing to fire their current coach when an elite option comes available, and Trotz certainly qualifies. In four seasons as head coach of the Capitals, Trotz compiled a 205-89-34 record and won more games than he lost in the playoffs even before this season’s championship run. In fifteen years with the Nashville Predators, Trotz went 557-479-100 with 60 ties. He now ranks fifth all-time in coaching wins, behind just Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville, Ken Hitchcock and Al Arbour.
A dozen or more teams could potentially move to hire Trotz, though it’s not clear yet who would actually fire their current coach for the chance. The Islanders obviously present the most obvious opportunity, and it could be another move to try and impress John Tavares before his upcoming free agency. Lamoriello fired head coach Doug Weight quickly after taking over, and has worked with high-price coaches before, most notably with Mike Babcock recently in Toronto. Babcock and Quenneville are the highest paid coaches in the league, a list Trotz will likely hope to add his name to in the coming days.
For Washington, this is obviously huge news but may not come as much of a surprise. As recently as last summer the team was reported to be seriously considering moving on from him, after being thrown out of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins once again. Heading into the season on his final year—championship clause not withstanding—there was always a real possibility that the two teams would part ways. The fact that it comes after the team lifted their first Stanley Cup in franchise history is shocking, but is understandable if the team was unwilling to offer a large increase in salary.
The Capitals now will have to search elsewhere for their head coaching job, but may not have to look very far. Todd Reirden, named associate coach of the team two years ago, has been blocked from interviewing with other teams in the past and is an obvious candidate to replace Trotz for the 2018-19 season. Some teams prefer to not promote assistants because of their different relationships with the players, but in this case there might not be a better option. Reirden was a head coach in the AHL briefly before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins’ coaching staff in 2010.