Less than two weeks after overseeing the Washington Capitals’ first Stanley Cup championship, Barry Trotz resigned as coach Monday.
It had been a euphoric two weeks for Trotz and his Capitals. After dropping the first game of the best-of-seven final-round series 6-4 to the Vegas Golden Knights, Washington won the next four games, securing the Cup on June 7 with a 4-3 victory.
Asked after the game whether he’d like to stay with his team, Trotz, 55, said, “Absolutely.”
Last Tuesday at the victory parade in D.C., Trotz celebrated with his players. Toward the end of the route, he dismounted the parade bus, melting into the crowd of fans and handing out high-fives.
On Monday, it was over.
“After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals. When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital. We had an incredible run this season culminating with our players and staff achieving our goal and sharing the excitement with our fans,” Trotz said in a statement.
General manager Brian MacLellan said later in the day that the Capitals accepted Trotz's resignation after they were unable to agree on terms on a new contract.
Winning the Cup less than two weeks ago triggered a two-year extension for Trotz that would have given him a slight bump in salary to just over $2 million, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce the extension.
“His representative wants to take advantage of Barry's experience and Stanley Cup win and was trying to negotiate a deal that compensates him as one of the better coaches in the league, top four or five coaches,” MacLellan said at a news conference in Arlington, Va. “I think the five-year term is probably a sticking point. You have a coach that's been here four years, you do another five, that's nine years. There's not many coaches that have that lasting ability. It's a long time and it's a lot of money to be committing to a coach.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mike Babcock makes the most at $6.25 million on an eight-year deal after coaching the Detroit Red Wings for 10 seasons, Chicago's Joel Quenneville is next at $6 million entering his ninth full season with the Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens’ Claude Julien brings in $5 million after coaching the Boston Bruins for nine-plus seasons. All three have won the Cup like Trotz, including Quenneville three times.
If Trotz were paid among the top five, it would have put him in the $4 million-plus range annually — a price the Capitals have not been willing to pay for coaches.
Trotz went into the season with an uncertain future after ownership and MacLellan declined to talk about a contract extension last summer after back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning seasons that ended with second-round exits.
“We were struggling at the time to get over the hump,” MacLellan said. “We couldn't get out of the second round and Barry hadn't been able to coach out of the second round yet either. I think from the organization's perspective, some changes would've had to be made if we lost in the second round again.”
As part of the uneasy arrangement, associate coach Todd Reirden — who was not allowed to interview with other teams last summer — remained on staff and was considered the coach-in-waiting. Reirden is now the leading candidate to take over for the defending champions, though MacLellan wants to go through an interview process with the former Pittsburgh Penguins assistant first.
“Todd's a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “We're going to start with Todd here, and we've been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or for someone else. We'll see how the talk goes with him and then we'll make a decision based on that. If it goes well, then we'll pursue Todd, and if it doesn't, we'll open it up a little bit.”
As a coach, Trotz is not characteristically nomadic. After coaching in the the minors, including locally for the Baltimore Skipjacks for the 1992-93 season, he signed on with the newly made Nashville Predators and coached the team to the playoffs seven times in his final 10 seasons there after missing the postseason the first five.
During Trotz’s four seasons in Washington, Washington won 205 of his 328 regular-season games (63 percent), the best record in the league. He led the team to three second-round playoff appearances before the Capitals won the Cup this year. His NHL career coaching is 762-568-60, making him fifth all time in wins.
“I would like to thank Mr. [Ted] Leonsis, Dick Patrick and Brian MacLellan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great organization. I would also like to thank our players and staff who worked tirelessly every day to achieve our success,” he said in the statement.
Trotz is believed to be interested in coaching next season, and the only current vacancy is with the New York Islanders, a divisional opponent. Because the Capitals accepted Trotz’s resignation, he is in no way restricted from coaching next season.