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Trotz unveils Caps' power play and penalty kill units


Trotz unveils Caps' power play and penalty kill units

On Monday, Coach Barry Barry Trotz showed us what he’s thinking about for opening night forward lines and D pairs.

On Tuesday, he showed us what he’s thinking about for special team units.

The first power play unit featured forwards Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson.

The second power play unit had forwards Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly as well as defensemen Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov.

“We want to get something sorta in place,” Trotz said of the power play configurations. “That’s maybe where we’ll to try to start. That's really the first idea. …Yeah, you can read into it.”


The Caps have three preseason games remaining; the regular season begins Oct. 5 in Ottawa.

Tuesday's first power play unit had Kuznetsov in the spot vacated by Marcus Johansson, who was traded to the Devils in July. While it’s a promotion for Kuznetsov, it leaves the second unit without a center.

“That’s the negative,” Trotz said of promoting the Russian pivot to unit No. 1.

To that point, Trotz said Connolly will take the right side faceoffs and Burakovsky will take the left side draws.

For Connolly, starting the season with a full-time role on the power play unit represents a signficant step up in terms of responsibility. Last season, he scored once on the man advantage but was used sparingly.

“Conno is an instinctive goalscorer,” Trotz said. “He’s got a really good, quick release.”

Connolly, who was positioned on the goal line on Tuesday, added: “It’s obviously a great opportunity. I’ve had this opportunity before and I had to work hard to get that again. So I want to take advantage of it.”  

Trotz also put on display what he’s thinking about for his penalty kill units. The first forward pair was Tom Wilson and Lars Eller, while the second pair was Tyler Graovac and Jay Beagle.

One defensive pair on the penalty kill was Brooks Orpik and rookie Madison Bowey. (The primary penalty-killing D were probably being used on the power play in Tuesday’s drills.)

What stood out about the penalty kill groupings was Graovac’s continued ascension on the depth chart following his breakout performance in Friday’s preseason game against the Blues. Graovac was not used on the penalty kill last season in Minnesota, but Trotz likes his mobility and, at 6 foot 5, his long reach. From an Xs and Os standpoint, Trotz also likes the flexibility of having Graovac and Beagle, a pair of natural centers, on the same PK pair for faceoffs.

“He’s got some reach—that’s an advantage for a penalty killer,” Trotz said of Graovac. “He did a really good job in penalty kill situations in his first two [preseason] games, and faceoffs were a big component of that.”

Trotz added: “They sort themselves out as they go along. We’ll see if he can sustain his first two games.”

The Caps also worked on shootouts, with Oshie, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Burakovsky and Ovechkin taking reps.


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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”


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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?


The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.