Barry Trotz resigned from the Washington Capitals on Monday, June 18, just 11 days after he and the team won the franchise's first Stanley Cup. He was spotted wearing a suit at the Newark airport later that afternoon, fueling speculation he was meeting with the New York Islanders, the only team that had a head-coaching vacancy. Three days later, Trotz became the Islanders' new coach while the Capitals have yet to name his replacement.
Once Washington accepted Trotz's resignation, there were no restrictions on where he could coach, and his move to a Metropolitan Division opponent the Capitals will play at least four times a year stings. Trotz and Washington's split was largely related to financial differences; Trotz asked for a five-year term with a $5 million annual salary, a significant bump from the $1.5 million he was reportedly making each of the past four years with the team. MacLellan said the term especially was "a sticking point" because it would have secured Trotz as coach of the Capitals for nine seasons, and that kind of tenure with a team is rare.
"It's a long time and a lot of money to be committing to a coach," MacLellan said Monday. "There are probably four guys that are making that money, so it's the upper echelon. It's the big-revenue teams."
New York and new general manager Lou Lamoriello got closer to Trotz's price with a deal believed to be in the neighborhood of $20 million for five years, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. The Islanders have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, but New York was one the highest-scoring teams in the league last season. Hiring Trotz, the fifth-winningest coach all time, will likely be part of the team's pitch for retaining pending free agent center John Tavares. Known for coaching good defensive structure, Trotz could help a team that allowed the most goals in the league last season. The Islanders are also considered a possible trade destination for Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
Washington superstars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom expressed disappointment over Trotz's resignation Wednesday night at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, but both wished him well and praised his positive impact on them.
"Something you can't take away from Barry is what he's done to this team," Backstrom said. "Him and the coaching staff has been doing a tremendous job to just get us together. He's been schooling us good these four years, and we got a good finish out of it. . . . Hopefully there's no hard feelings. He's always going to be remembered in Washington as a champion, which is great, which he deserves."
Said Ovechkin: "He's been very good for me. We've been back and forth all the time, you know? He was hard on me. He give me very good advice because he have experience and that's the whole thing. When the coach know who you are and know how to use you, you just feel great."
Along with the franchise's first Stanley Cup, Trotz guided the Capitals to back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning seasons and three division titles. Washington advanced to the second round of the playoffs in all four seasons he was with the team. Though MacLellan said there's no time frame to name Trotz's replacement, Capitals associate coach Todd Reirden is the overwhelming favorite to get the job, and that Washington seemed to be grooming him for the role for the past year created tension in the relationship between Trotz and the organization.
Assistant coach Lane Lambert and Capitals director of goaltending Mitch Korn had followed Trotz to Washington from their previous stop in Nashville, and it's likely they will now join him in New York.
Story by Isabelle Khurshudyan. Khurshudyan covers the Washington Capitals. A University of South Carolina graduate, she has worked at The Washington Post since 2014, previously reporting on high school sports and local colleges.