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Caps GM MacLellan on signing Holtby, other topics

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Caps GM MacLellan on signing Holtby, other topics

Capitals first-year general manager Brian MacLellan met with reporters for close to 30 minutes on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. In Part One, he gives his thoughts on re-signing Braden Holtby and Joel Ward and the team’s expectations for Tom Wilson.

On how the Capitals' 2014-15 season ended: 

Probably mixed emotions for me. The way it ended is not the way you want it to end. I'm disappointed in that. I'm disappointed we didn't close out the victory against New York. But overall I think we made a lot of progress from where where we started at the beginning of the year to where we finished up. I think we made huge steps as a team, as an organization. And I think we learned from what happened at the end and addressed things and tried to make it better and try to get over that hurdle next year.

On the financial challenges that lie ahead:

I think it will sort itself out. We have some RFAs we really like and we want to bring them back and we'll work through it. I think we can get reasonable contracts on all of them. And then we'll make some decisions based on where the [salary] cap ends up and how much money we have left over after that and how we want to invest it.  

On re-signing goaltender Braden Holtby, who will be a restricted free agent:

Yeah, I do. He's going to be a priority for us. Obviously, he’s a big part of what’s gone on this year. I think the development of Braden has been tremendous. Personally and as a player I think he represents pretty much everything you want in a team’s goaltending.

On whether he would prefer to give Holtby a long-term contract or a three-year bridge contract that carries him through his first season of unrestricted free agency in 2017-18:

I think we’re open to both. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll talk with his representation and him and see what works best for him and what’s best for the organization.

On whether Holtby’s contract value determines other negotiations:

All the restricted guys. We’re going to be working on them simultaneously. It’s not going to be just Braden. We like Beags [UFA Jay Beagle]. We want to get Beags at a good number as a fourth-line player. We want to bring [RFA] Marcus Johansson back. He’s 25 years old, he’s still developing. We think we can get more out of him going forward and [RFA Evgeny] Kuznsetsov has been a big part of our success at the end of the year. I mean, he filled a hole at second-line center that we’ve been trying to fill for a number of years. He’s going to be important to our team going forward also.

On being able to re-sign restricted free agents while also having enough money to re-sign unrestricted free agents:

We’ve done some homework on guys and we have a range where we think it’s good value for us and for them. I think it’s important for players to realize that we’ve had a successful team and if they believe we have a good chance moving forward to win a championship they recognize that going for max dollars, which [they] could make the choice to do in certain situations, it would hinder our ability to compete going forward.

On whether getting players to take less money might take some convincing;

I think we had a positive experience here. I think we’ve experienced a lot of success. I mean, on the exit interviews you hear a lot of language of ‘this is the most fun I’ve ever had playing. This is the best team we’ve had. This is the most success we’ve experienced.’ A lot of positive comments. So I’m assuming they all want to come back. It would be different if it went the other way on us.

On which free agents will be easiest to sign:

From talking to [Beagle] I know he likes it here. He’s comfortable here; he’s comfortable with the coaching staff. So he’d be an easier one to sign, I would hope. [Kuznetsov] is the same thing. He likes it here. He likes his role. He likes the coaching staff. There are a lot of positives with these guys, they want to come back, so we’re going to work hard to get them back.

On the future of 34-year-old veteran Joel Ward:

Joel’s had less mileage for a guy in his 30s because he started late. He played Canadian university hockey [at Prince Edward Island]. I think there’s a little bit to that, but as you get up in age, I think there is a deterioration, no matter how much mileage you put on it. Term is going to be an issue, I think, there, going forward. I mean, if we can work in a good number and we feel Joel can continue to play at the level he’s playing at, we’ll work it out.

On whether he saw deterioration in Ward’s game this season:

No, I did not. He played good. They moved him around a lot and he did a great job in the playoffs on the first line at the end of the year.

On playoff success impacting a player’s value:

Your skill level gets tested as much as it can at that high level of play. Against New York that was the highest level we got to all year. Guys rise to that occasion and play at that level. Once they hit that level you know that, too. I think coming back next year, I want to see that level from Day One. Here’s what he did in the playoffs, let’s do it all year.

On whether Ward’s future in Washington is tied to the development of Tom Wilson:

Yeah, I think. There are a lot of moving parts here. Obviously, we want to get Wilson more ice time next year. We need to bump him up. We need to, maybe not next year but the year after, turn him into a top six forward. I think we need some skill development there. I don’t like having him on the fourth line for a whole year. I don’t think he touched the puck enough. I think he needs to make more plays. He’s already a big part of our identity. We just need to maximize him as a player and I think he has the potential to do that. During the year I’ve seen him play first line where he was effective. He gets in on the forecheck, he’s physical, he creates loose pucks. We just need him making more plays and doing more with the puck and contributing offensively. I think we can get that out of him. Barry ]Trotz] is big on details and managing the game and learning to play the right way. Tom does make a few mistakes, coaching mistakes I would call them, managing the puck and all the language Barry uses. I think it’s good that Barry holds the young guys accountable for it. I think in the end they all learn. I mean, you watch the progression of Kuznetsov this year, it was the same thing. [Andre] Burkovsky also. Burakovsky’s a little younger [20] and Barry was, ‘You need to do this. You need to not turn it over here. You need to not play one-on-one here.’ I think there was a good education there for all of our young guys this year.      

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

Less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, the Caps are in need of a new head coach.

Barry Trotz resigned as the Caps coach on Monday after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. How did we get here and where do both parties go from here? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break it all down.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

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USA TODAY Sports

7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

For now, Todd Reirden appears to be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.

But who is he? 

Here are some things to know about the Capitals head coaching candidate:

1. Reirden spent the last four seasons with Washington on Barry Trotz's staff

Should Reirden be hired, he would bring a measure of familiarity with him few teams get after a coaching change. Reirden was hired by Trotz in 2014 when Trotz was putting together his staff. He was brought in to coach the team's defense and immediately improved the blue line.

In the year prior to Reirden's hiring, the Caps allowed 2.74 goals per game, good for only 21st in the NHL.

Here is what the defense has done in Reirden's four years in charge of the defense:

2014-15: 2.43 goals against per game, 7th in the NHL
2015-16: 2.33 goals against per game, 2nd in the NHL
2016-17: 2.16 goals against per game, 1st in the NHL
2017-18: 2.90 goals against per game, 16th in the NHL

In those four seasons combined, Washington allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than every team in the NHL but one. He was also in charge of the team's lethal power play.

2. Reirden has been a head coach before

While he may never have been a head coach in the NHL, Reirden does have some head coaching experience.

Reirden was promoted to head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While head coach, Reirden led the team to a 55-43-8 record.

3. Reirden came to Washington from the Penguins

Reirden joined the Penguins organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate and took over as head coach later that season. He joined the Penguins' playoff staff during the 2009 Cup run. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach under with the NHL team under Bylsma in 2010 and was there for four years until Byslma was fired. Reirden was not initially fired, but was allowed to seek other opportunities. When he was officially fired, the Capitals hired him the same day.

4. Reirden had a lot to do with Matt Niskanen signing with the Caps

Reirden was hired by the Caps on June 25, 2014. On July 1, Matt Niskanen signed with Washington.

Reirden and Niskanen developed a strong relationship while in Pittsburgh. Niskanen dealt with confidence issues after getting traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh in 2011. Under Reirden's tutelage, Niskanen developed into a top-pair defenseman. Niskanen's agent said at the time it was "no secret" that Reirden and Niskanen had bonded while both were in Pittsburgh.

Brooks Orpik also signed with the Caps as a free agent that year, the second defenseman from Pittsburgh to sign in Washington showing the level of respect they felt for Reirden.

5. Reirden nearly became the head coach of Calgary

Reirden interviewed for the head coaching job in Calgary in 2016 and was considered a finalist for the position before eventually losing out Glen Gulutzan.

Gulutzan was fired by Calgary after the 2017-18 season and is now an assistant coach in Edmonton while Reirden is the frontrunner to become the head coach for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Sounds like things worked out for Reirden.

6. The Caps have been grooming Reirden to be a head coach

Reirden was promoted to associate coach in August 2016 after Calgary had passed on him. Since then, the Caps have not allowed him to interview with other teams for head coaching positions. The implication was clear, this was someone the team wanted to keep.

"You know I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or someone else," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan Monday.

7. Reiden played in 183 career NHL games

Reirden was a defenseman drafted in the 12th round by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After playing four years at Bowling Green, Reirden went pro with several seasons in the ECHL, IHL and AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1998-99 season. Reirden would also play with the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes. 

For his NHL career, Reirden scored 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.

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