Barry Trotz stepped down Monday as the head coach of the Washington Capitals — 11 days after winning the Stanley Cup.
In Trotz’ fourth year at the helm, the Capitals finally conquered their postseason demons and won the first championship in franchise history.
But the club and Trotz weren’t able to work out a long-term extension, leading the coach to give his resignation.
“His representative wants to take advantage of Barry’s experience and Stanley Cup win and is trying to negotiate a deal that compensates him as one of the better coaches in the league, a top four or five coach,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He’s looking for that kind of contract.”
Asked why the Capitals did not believe Trotz deserved that much, MacLellan said, “I’m not saying he doesn’t.”
“I don’t think all teams pay that type of money and years (for coaches),” MacLellan said. “Certain teams are open to it and the rest of the league isn’t.”
Trotz made $1.5 million per year on his four-year contract, signed in 2014. The deal was originally believed to expire July 1, but MacLellan confirmed reports that it included a clause, previously undisclosed to the public, that awarded Trotz a two-year extension with a pay raise if the Capitals won the Cup during his tenure.
The raise, however, did not match Trotz’ expectations.
Reports indicated the increase would have given Trotz a modest salary bump, just shy of $2 million per year. But the three highest-paid NHL head coaches earn $5 million or more annually. Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs owns the largest salary at an average value of $6.25 million.
MacLellan said the length of the contract was also “a sticking point” in the negotiations.
“I thought we’d be able to work out a shorter-term deal to make both sides happy,” MacLellan said.
The Capitals went 205-89-34 in four regular seasons under Trotz, the best record in the NHL in that span. They won the Presidents’ Trophy for best regular-season record in 2015 and 2016, and Trotz won the 2016 Jack Adams Award for coach of the year.
Before coming to Washington, Trotz was the first head coach of the Nashville Predators. The team went 557-479-60-100 in his 15-year tenure there, good for a .533 points percentage. Trotz’s 762 career wins are fifth-most in NHL history.
Until the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run this year, playoff performance was a knock on Trotz’s legacy almost as much as it was on Alex Ovechkin’s. His Predators couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs until 2011, and this year was the first time a Trotz-coached team advanced to a conference finals.
The Capitals did not offer Trotz an extension during the season, wanting to see how the year unfolded. Trotz, for his part, repeatedly said he wasn’t bothered by the move.
Asked after winning the Stanley Cup if he wanted to remain with Washington, Trotz said, “Oh, absolutely.” And at the team’s “breakdown day” last week, the coach said there were some “issues” the two sides had to work out, but reiterated his desire to return to Washington.
Instead, Trotz is now the first coach since 1994 to win a Stanley Cup and leave his team that offseason without retiring.
At his press conference Monday evening, MacLellan called associate coach Todd Reirden a “good candidate” for the Capitals’ new vacancy and indicated he will be given the first interview.
Reirden has been on the Capitals’ coaching staff since 2014 and was promoted to the “associate coach” title ahead of the 2016-17 campaign. Last offseason, the Capitals prevented Reirden from interviewing for head coaching jobs, a sign they wanted to keep him under contract.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Trotz thanked the Capitals’ ownership, general manager Brian MacLellan and players and staff who “worked tirelessly every day to achieve our success.”
“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,” Trotz wrote. “We had an incredible run this season culminating with our players and staff achieving our goal and sharing the excitement with our fans.”
The Capitals also released a statement saying they were “disappointed” by the resignation but called Trotz “a man of high character and integrity” and thanked him for his role in bringing the Stanley Cup to Washington.
“It’s hard,” MacLellan said. “It’s hard for me. it’s hard for guys in the organization. In the end, I think sports is a business. You want it to work out. You want it to be a game. You want it to be all fun. But 10 days after you win a Cup, we have to come here and do this, it’s not fun.”