Trotz resigns as head coach of Stanley Cup-winning Capitals

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — The defending Stanley Cup champions will play under a new head coach this fall.

Barry Trotz, head coach of the Washington Capitals for the last four seasons, has abruptly stepped down from his position on Monday after failing to agree to terms on a new contract. The freshly-minted Stanley Cup champions will be without a coach, heading into the National Hockey League draft, which takes place later this week, and free agency, which opens next month.

“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 Stanely 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.”

Winning the Cup triggered a two-year extension for the 55-year-old Trotz that would have given him a salary bump worth just over $2 million. The two sides could not reach an agreement on a new annual salary that would have put Trotz in line with other Stanley Cup-winning coaches.

Ownership and General Manager Brian MacLellan declined to talk about a contract extension last summer after the team secured back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies – and back-to-back second-round exits. This left Trotz with a future in flux heading into the Capitals’ magical season.

Associate coach Todd Reirden has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Trotz, after he was not allowed to interview with other teams last summer. Reirden was considered the coach-in-waiting during the 2017-18 season.

Only the New York Islanders currently have a coaching vacancy, but other teams may consider making a change given Trotz’s track record in Nashville and Washington. He has the fifth-most victories in NHL history and has led a team to the playoffs in 11 of his 19 seasons, and had a .625 winning percentage in four seasons in Washington.

Trotz seemed to press all the right buttons during the Capitals’ somewhat remarkable run that ended with the team’s first championship in franchise history. He put goaltender Braden Holtby back in net early in the first round and helped playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly (among others) find his stride with his lineup decisions throughout the postseason.

Despite his contract situation, Trotz appeared relaxed throughout the season, and was a popular coach with his players. Even as the team dispatched its playoff nemesis Pittsburgh Penguins, Trotz maintained his even-keeled demeanor.

“He changed this team with family mentality,” top-line winger Tom Wilson said. “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.”

***Associated Press contributed to this report***