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Re-signing Green will be 'a little complicated'

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Re-signing Green will be 'a little complicated'

Capitals first-year general manager Brian MacLellan met with reporters for close to 30 minutes on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. In Part Two, he gives his thoughts on re-signing Mike Green, the team’s progress under Barry Trotz and the team’s quest for a top-line right wing:

On if there is any conceivable way defenseman Mike Green returns for an 11th season with the Capitals:

Yeah, sure. I like what Mike Green’s done this year. It’s been a good fit for us. I like our group overall, it’s a good group. I think it’s going to come down to if he’s comfortable with that role [as a fifth defenseman] and what do you pay for that role going forward. It’s probably going to be a little complicated. There are a lot of moving parts around that. I think the best thing we can do is keep in communication. Tell him what we’re thinking and he can tell us what they’re thinking and if it works out, that’ll be great. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I have [his exit interview] this afternoon. To play in that spot as a fifth guy that can move up, there’s a dollar value on that and if we can afford that we’ll try to work it into the cap.

On UFA Eric Fehr:

He had a great year. We missed him in the playoffs. He’s comfortable with that third-line center spot now. He did a good job on faceoffs [52 percent], really improved in that area. He’s good defensively; he’s got a good stick. And he contributed offensively 5-on-5 [17 goals], which is hard to do in this league while playing against good players. And so, we’d love to have him back.

On having so many free agents have career years:

Funny how that works. It will make it tough. It’s going to be the same philosophy. If you want to come back and you believe in the group, maybe you’re not trying to maximize the dollar amount and term amount.  

On the job Barry Trotz has done in his first year:

I thought he was outstanding. He set the tone for the culture and bringing in structure and a system of accountability. I thought the whole coaching staff was incredibly good this year. Barry obviously has been in the league a long time and knows what it takes to be successful. He got star players and your bottom six [forwards] and bottom two defensemen to buy into what he was doing, philosophically and off the ice. It’s amazing the change in environment that’s happened from last year to this year. The same guys, who were incredibly close this year, had some issues at the end of last year. And I think he’s a big part of creating that. And you’ve got to give the players credit, too. It’s not just the head coach and assistant coaches, it’s the players. I think they were at the point where they could receive the message that Barry brought to them and they bought into it.

On, despite the team’s progress, how much failing to get to the conference finals is gnawing at him:

“A lot. It’s a really good point. I think we’ve got to take not finishing New York off [seriously]. What do we take out of that, to get past that hurdle? I thought we struggled a little bit with the pace of New York at times during the games. Our starts weren’t where they should have been. I thought the pace of their penalty killers, they put a lot of pressure on our power play [1-for-15] and I thought that hurt us. And there were some times when details of our game got exposed. Turnovers in the middle of the ice, taking three penalties in a row, a bad [line] change, a missed assignment on a faceoff. I think we have to get to that next level on the detail stuff. We’ve come a long way and the coaches emphasize it every day. I saw the Joel Ward quote about randomness. Those bounces are created because a bunch of stuff goes on in front of it. If you’re not detail oriented, you’re going to suffer because of it. I think in the New York series it might have gone a little bit against us. They are 2-1 games and it comes down to one mistake every game. We took advantage of a couple of their mistakes early and we made some at the end that we shouldn’t have made.

On filling the void at top-line right wing, where center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Alex Ovechkin played with several different teammates:

It’s on the shopping list. I think it would be a priority for us if we can find a guy that can play there. I don’t know that the UFA market is going to provide that for us. We’ll see what happens in the trade market here coming up, see if we can find that. Otherwise, we’re going to have to develop a guy. We’re going to have to look at [Andre] Burakovsky. We’re going to have to find a guy. But it is a priority. You don’t like to see revolving players go through that spot all year. You’d like to have some more stability there, where a guy is there permanently, or almost permanently. You’re always changing lines, but we’d like to have a guy play there.

On the futures of trade deadline acquisitions Tim Gleason and Curtis Glencross, each of whom will be unrestricted free agents:

I thought Gleason did what we thought he’d do for us. He was a good teammate, provided us with a physical presence, filled in on the PK when Brooks [Orpik] or Karl [Alzner] got penalties. I thought he did what we thought he would do. He played great against the fourth line of the Islanders. We’ll consider [re-signing]. That will be down the road, I think, depending on what happens with Mike Green. We’re going to have [Nate] Schmidt and [Dmitry] Orlov integrated into our lineup, so there might not be room for the guy. But we’ll see how it works out. Glencross, it looked like it was going to work early. I mean, I’ve been watching Glencross since he broke into the [AHL] in Cincinnati. He came in and scored some goals for us early and then some things went on and he kind of lost his game a little bit and I don’t think we had time to wait around for him to find it again. There’s a good player in there. We saw a little bit of it. I made the point to the coaches that if we won that game 1-0 when he scored that goal [a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 5] it’s a great trade. That’s the fine line. They came back and unfortunately they scored. We’re going to talk. That’s going to be down the line. We have a lot more decisions to make in front of that.

On if there is anything on the shopping list other than a top-line right wing:

That would be the main thing. I’d like, ideally, to get an established forward in our lineup somehow, to complement young guys and Ovi and Backstrom.

On where Andre Burakovsky should play next season:

Probably at wing. I’ve discussed it with Barry a few times. I think there’s a natural center there that hasn’t been developed. But I think he can be able to play anywhere, basically: left wing, center or right wing. I think we’re going to want to incorporate him into our top six, so probably right [wing].    

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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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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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

As shocking as the news of Barry Trotz’s resignation on Monday felt, it probably shouldn’t have given that whether or not he would return to Washington after the 2017-18 season was a storyline all year long.

Trotz entered the 2017-18 season on the last year of his initial four-year deal leading to speculation over whether the team was dissatisfied with his results and ready to move on from the head coach when his contract expired. Teams typically do not allow a head coach to enter the final year of a contract so that they do not appear to the players to be a lame duck coach.

Ultimately, that turned out to not be a problem as Trotz led the organization to its first Stanley Cup in his contract year. While there was interest from both sides in an extension in the wake of winning the Cup, ultimately a new deal could not be agreed upon and now the defending champs are without a head coach.

This begs the question, could things have been different had the team worked out a new contract with Trotz before the 2017-18 season? The answer is almost certainly yes, so how did things get to the point where Trotz was allowed to go into 2017-18 without an extension?

During a press conference with the media on Monday, general manager Brian MacLellan explained the team’s reasoning in not extending Trotz in the summer of 2017.

“We were struggling at the time to get over the hump,” MacLellan said. “We couldn't get over the second round and Barry hadn't been able to coach out of the second round yet either.”

In 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Trotz was not able to coach his team past the second round in the playoffs. In his three seasons with Washington leading up to the 2017-18 campaign, he had led the Caps to two division titles and two Presidents’ Trophies, but again could not get past the second-round hump that had plagued both him and the team.

Based on MacLellan’s comments, another early playoff exit would have likely led to the team choosing to allow Trotz's contract to expire.

“I think from the organization's perspective, some changes would've had to be made if we lost in the second round again,” MacLellan said.

But what if instead the unthinkable happened? What if the Caps forced Trotz into a “prove it” contract year and he was able to lead the team to the Stanley Cup? Didn’t they risk losing him all along?

Yes and no.

MacLellan confirmed reports on Monday that Trotz’s contract included an automatic two-year extension “at an increased rate” if he won the Cup. So while both sides were negotiating an extension, technically Trotz was already under contract through the 2019-20 season.

In the summer of 2017, MacLellan had a choice to make. At the end of the two-year championship window, he could choose to extend a head coach who had not brought the team the type of postseason success he was hoping for, he could fire a coach who had just won two consecutive division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies and whose team was eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, or he could ride out the final year of Trotz’s deal and, in the off chance the team won the Stanley Cup, still rest easy in the notion that Trotz would automatically remain under contract.

MacLellan went with option C. It almost worked.

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