Barry Trotz abruptly stepped down as coach of the Washington Capitals on Monday after failing to agree to terms on a new contract, leaving the newly minted Stanley Cup champions without a coach with the draft coming up later this week and free agency opening next month.
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.
Trotz and the team could not agree on an annual salary that would have put him in line with other Cup-winning coaches. Toronto’s Mike Babcock makes the most at $6.25 million, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville is next at $6 million and Montreal’s Claude Julien brings in $5 million.
“After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation,” Trotz said. “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.”
In a statement, the team thanked Trotz for the past four years and said it was grateful for his leadership and accomplishments. General manager Brian MacLellan was expected to address reporters later Monday.
The 55-year-old 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.
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 replace Trotz, who will be an intriguing figure on the coaching market.
Only the New York Islanders have a current coaching vacancy, though given Trotz’s success in Nashville and Washington, other teams might consider making a move to hire him. Trotz has the fifth-most victories in NHL history and has guided a team to the playoffs in 11 of his 19 seasons. He is 762-568-60-134 overall with the Predators and Capitals, and he won 205 of his 328 regular-season games (63 percent) since taking over as Washington’s coach in 2014.
Trotz’s situation was a significant story line throughout the Capitals’ somewhat surprising run that ended with the first championship in franchise history. MacLellan said the coach would be back if he wanted to, but asked the day after the championship parade if he was confident of bringing Trotz back on a new contract, MacLellan responded: “I don’t know. We’ll find out.”
Trotz had his fingerprints all over this championship, pushing all the right buttons by putting goaltender Braden Holtby back in net early in the first round and making the correct lineup decisions throughout the playoffs. He was also a popular coach with his players, helping playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly and others find their stride.
“He changed this team with family mentality,” top-line winger Tom Wilson said last week. “He did a really good job of creating that team atmosphere. You look three or four years back, there was a lot of skill on this team, but there wasn’t really that team mentality and you can never take that away from what that did for this locker room.”
Despite his contract situation, Trotz appeared relaxed throughout the postseason, even as Washington vanquished playoff nemesis Pittsburgh. After the Capitals trailed in all four series and came back to win the Stanley Cup, Trotz told fans at the victory parade last week: “We’re going to do it again!”
Instead, Trotz is looking at the next stop in his career and the Capitals are looking for a new coach.