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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Right wing Devante Smith-Pelly is among the free agents the Capitals could lose this summer.

Saturday, June 09, 2018 1:00 am

Keeping coach Capitals' priority

Trotz, defenseman among free agents champs could lose

STEPHEN WHYNO | Associated Press

DULLES, Va. – Barry Trotz thought of mentors and friends Jack Button, Tommy Ebright, David Poile and Wayne Fleming when he lifted the Stanley Cup over his head.

The Washington coach didn't think about his future, the same approach he has taken all season and playoffs.

“I wasn't getting consumed with what was said, what my future holds, whatever,” Trotz said. “I'm in a pretty good spot.”

Trotz was in as good a spot as imaginable Friday as he and the Capitals landed back home in the Washington area with the Stanley Cup in tow. The celebration will last through the parade Tuesday, but once that's done, the work begins for Brian MacLellan to try to re-sign Trotz, top defenseman John Carlson and other free agents.

After not extending Trotz's contract last summer, ownership and general manager Brian MacLellan now hope to keep him around. MacLellan said after winning the Cup that Trotz will be back if he wants to be.

Trotz and Carlson, who set a franchise record for playoff points by a defenseman, can be free agents July 1 along with postseason hero Devante Smith-Pelly, trade-deadline acquisition Michal Kempny and longtime glue guy Jay Beagle. Washington will have to do some salary-cap maneuvering to keep Carlson, Smith-Pelly and Kempny in the fold but can break the bank for Trotz.

Following a roller-coaster, lame-duck season with presumed coach-in-waiting Todd Reirden still on staff, Trotz was asked if he saw a future for himself with the Capitals. He said: “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.”

“I love what I do in Washington,” Trotz said. “I love the guys. I'm just in a good spot, a good place.”

Offseason priority No. 1 for owner Ted Leonsis and MacLellan is signing Trotz to a new deal – if he wants to stay. It'll cost them.

Toronto's Mike Babcock is the highest-paid coach in the NHL at $6.25 million a year, Chicago's Joel Quenneville is next at $6 million and Montreal's Claude Julien third at $5 million. Trotz will soon have his name on the Stanley Cup like them and should approach that price.

Carlson will exceed it after leading all defensemen with 68 points in the regular season and the 20 in the playoffs. The 28-year-old right-shot defenseman trails only elite New York Islanders center John Tavares in free agent interest and is likely to command $8 million-plus on a long-term deal after how well he played this season.

The Capitals would be sitting pretty if the salary cap goes up to as high as $82 million because it gives them more room to keep the top four of Carlson, Orlov, Niskanen and Kempny together. If it stays closer to this year's $75 million, they could have trouble keeping this championship roster together. 

They might look a little different when they raise a Stanley Cup banner to the rafters in October but enjoyed some success with integrating new players.

“Bringing in (Alex) Chiasson, Smith-Pelly, guys that had no connection to past failures, it definitely relaxed (us),” veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik said.