Fresh off of winning the Stanley Cup and without a contract for next season, Capitals coach Barry Trotz is in line for a significant raise next season and he could be one of the league’s top free agents if he’s not back in Washington.
LAS VEGAS – Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz was speaking metaphorically when he said he’s “in a good spot.” Yes, a coach who is on an expiring contract and has just led his team to the Stanley Cup is most definitely in a good spot.
He’s certainly in a better spot than he was back in November when the Capitals were mucking around with a 10-9-1 record and Trotz’s future seemed precarious. And now Trotz, if he chooses, could enter the market as the second biggest free agent after John Tavares. Whether it’s with Washington or somewhere else, Trotz is going to be working next season and he’ll be doing it for a lot more than the $1.5 million he pulled down in 2017-18.
GM Brian MacLellan, who had been non-committal before the playoffs, said after the Capitals won the Cup that the job is his to turn down. “If he wants to be back,” MacLellan said, “he’ll be back.”
Trotz’s four-year deal with the Capitals expires July 1, the same day the free agent frenzy begins for players. Both sides decided before the season began to wait until after the season to chart a course of action. Had the Capitals fallen early in the playoffs again – and remember, they were down 0-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets after Trotz elected to start Philipp Grubauer in goal over Braden Holtby – Trotz would have undoubtedly been shown the door.
For his part, Trotz didn’t want to think about his contract status and pretty much said so every time it came up. “I will say this,” Trotz said. “I said to Brian, ‘There’s no reason that I don’t want to be there. No matter what happens, give me a couple of days to enjoy or not enjoy what happens and let’s talk and go from there.’ But these (players) are my kids. This is a pretty special group. We’ll talk and I’m not worried one way or another. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I don’t lose any sleep over it.”
The best thing about Trotz’s situation is the Capitals are pretty flush with money and will be coming off a year in which they had 11 home playoff dates. Even better is that coaches don’t fall under the salary cap so bumping Trotz into the $4 million to $5 million range would not be an issue. When you look at it, that’s 25-goal scorer money. And is having the right coach behind the bench not as important as having a really good second-line player? And Trotz does not strike as the kind of coach whose act wears thin, primarily because he doesn’t have an ‘act’. He’s the real deal, which is why he lasted so long in Nashville before he came to the Capitals.
Which is why Trotz can afford to be philosophical about his future. “I know the good Lord has got my back,” he said.
Things will be more difficult with John Carlson, who is coming off a career year and terrific playoff. Like Trotz, he will be swinging for the fences on both term and money and there’s considerable concern the Capitals won’t be able to fit him under the salary cap. “We’re going to do our best,” MacLellan said of Carlson. “He had an outstanding year, he had an outstanding playoff. He’s a big part of our team.”
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