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COUNTDOWN TO SHUTDOWN: 32 DAYS

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COUNTDOWN TO SHUTDOWN: 32 DAYS

By Ben Raby
CSNwashington.com

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was among 23 members of the NHL Players Association who met with union chief Donald Fehr Tuesday in Toronto in hopes of averting a potential work stoppage.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has threatened to lock out the Leagues players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not in place by Sept. 15 and talks between the NHL and the PA are slowly intensifying.

The two sides are meeting for four days this week in Toronto and Tuesdays session saw the PA make its first formal proposal in these negotiations.

The PAs presentation came a month after League owners put forth their initial proposal which included significant cuts in player salaries and limitations regarding contract lengths and free agency.

Among the biggest hurdles the NHL and the PA face is how to divvy up the Leagues annual hockey related revenue (HRR) between owners and players.

Under the CBA signed in 2005, players have received 57 percent of annual HRR- an amount that has been reflected annually with the players salary cap. Just as the NHLs hockey related revenues have increased in each of the last seven years, so too has the salary cap ceiling (set at 70.2 million for 2012-13).

In their initial offer last month though, the owners proposed that the players receive only 46 percent of the NHLs annual HRR moving forward.

In their counter-proposal Tuesday, the PA did not place a specific number or percentage on how much HRR they should receive. Instead, the PA proposed a fixed increase on player salaries (reflected by an increase in the annual salary cap) for each of the next three years.
Since the NHLs 2005 work stoppage, team payrolls have risen annually at the same rate that the Leagues annual hockey related revenue has increased.

Over that time the NHLs annual revenue has increased by a yearly average of seven percent meaning that the salary cap has also grown by an average of seven percent in each of the last seven years.

According to the PAs proposal, player salaries would increase in each of the next three years by fixed amounts as opposed to being tied directly to league HRR.

The PA is arguing for player salaries to increase by two percent in the first year of the agreement, by four percent in year two and by six percent in year three. The players argue that based on the annual average increase of seven percent in league revenue there will be greater profits for club owners.

Fehr went as far as to suggest that if the NHLs annual revenue continues to grow at the existing average rate, the deal could see the players sacrifice as much as 465 million in salaries in the first three years.

The PAs hope is that the owners would benefit from greater profits in the first three years of a new deal- profits they hope will be dispersed to struggling franchises through greater revenue sharing in an effort to strengthen the league as a whole.

"In essence, when you boil it all down, what were suggesting is that the players partner with the financially stronger owners to stabilize the industry and assist the less financially strong ownership groups," Fehr told reporters in Toronto.

There were some NHL pundits who expected the players to fight for the elimination of a salary cap altogether, or at the very least argue in favor of a soft cap that would allow teams to exceed the agreed upon cap number but be forced to pay a luxury tax.

Instead the PA left the hard salary cap in place, while also arguing for player contracts to remain unchanged as they relate to term limits, salary arbitration rights and free agency eligibility.

I like it a lot," Crosby said of the proposal. "I think, as Don said, it's addressing the issues that the league has. Were making sure as players that we do our part to help those (struggling) teams out, but also holding the teams accountable At the end of the day, it's going to take both (sides) to do that."

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What's next for Barry Trotz?

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning Monday afternoon, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities.

So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old.

General manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June.

Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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