Caps were unwilling to meet Trotz’s contract demands, will interview assistant coach

The Washington Capitals were not willing to meet the cost that comes with success.

A Stanley Cup win triggered a clause in Barry Trotz's contract that would have seen him remain head coach of the Capitals for the next two seasons with a $300,000 raise - bringing his annual salary to $1.8 million - but after the two sides were unable to come to a revised agreement, Trotz resigned.

At a media availability Monday, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan noted that Trotz wanted to bring his compensation in line with the NHL's top coaches, reported Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post.

"There are probably four guys that are making that money, so it's the upper echelon. It's the big-revenue teams," MacLellan said.

According to CapFriendly, Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss Mike Babcock is currently the NHL's highest-paid coach, bringing in $6.25 million per year, closely followed by Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks at $6 million, then Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien, who earns $5 million.

While the dollar figure may have been troubling for the Capitals, it appears the length of the extension was a sticking point, MacLellan indicated, as per Tarik El-Bashir of NBC Sports Washington.

Trotz spent the last four seasons in Washington, and a five-year extension - if he remained for the life of the contract - would have brought his tenure to nine seasons, a rarity in the NHL.

Trotz is now a free agent and has been given clearance by the Capitals to speak with other clubs. The New York Islanders are currently the only other team without a head coach.

Meanwhile, the search for the next coach in Washington will begin with current assistant coach Todd Reirden, who spent the last four seasons working alongside Trotz. Reirden is expected to be a strong candidate for the role, given MacLellan indicated to El-Bashir that the club has been grooming him for head coaching duties.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Humboldt survivors will reunite for 1st time at NHL Awards in Vegas

The 10 surviving members of the Humboldt Broncos will reunite for the first time at the NHL Awards on Wednesday in Las Vegas, the league announced.

In April, the Broncos team bus was heading to an SJHL playoff game when it collided with a transport truck. The collision killed 16, including 10 players and the head coach.

The NHL and hockey community worldwide rallied around the tragedy, raising over $15 million for a GoFundMe campaign. The immediate outpouring of support also included all NHL players wearing commemorative stickers on their helmets.

The awards show will feature ceremonies for first responders from October's mass shooting in Las Vegas as well, and members from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hockey team in Florida.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Rutherford indicates changes coming for Penguins: ‘We need to get deeper’

General manager Jim Rutherford and the Pittsburgh Penguins aren't satisfied with a second-round playoff elimination.

After their quest for a three-peat was cut short in May, Rutherford and his club have their sights set on another championship run in 2018-19, and roster changes could be in order with the draft and free agency period on the horizon.

"Yeah, it possibly is easier to move some guys now," Rutherford told Josh Yohe of The Athletic. "Those memories and those accomplishments never go away. But we can't live on those either. We want to win again. So, there's a real chance we'll make a couple of changes here in a little bit."

Asked what he's looking for in particular, Rutherford was clear.

"We need to get deeper," Rutherford said. "That's a big goal for us right now. I want more balance throughout the lineup."

Pittsburgh made a move for center Derick Brassard before February's trade deadline to bolster an already lethal attack, but ran into offensive issues once Evgeni Malkin suffered an injury in the postseason.

Rutherford has just under $5 million in cap space to work with this offseason, according to CapFriendly, with Bryan Rust and Jamie Oleksiak among the Penguins' notable restricted free agents in need of new contracts.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Trotz steps down as Capitals’ head coach

Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the Washington Capitals, the team announced on Monday.

Trotz reportedly had a below market two-year extension automatically put on the table upon winning the Stanley Cup, but both sides were unable to come to an agreement on new terms, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

The 55-year-old is now a free agent and the Capitals have granted him permission to speak to other club, adds Friedman.

"After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals," Trotz said in a statement, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston. "When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation's capital. We had an incredible run this season culminating with our players and staff achieving our goal and sharing the excitement with our fans. I would like to thank Mr. Leonsis, Dick Patrick and Brian MacLellan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great organization. I would also like to thank our players and staff who worked tirelessly every day to achieve our success."

More to come.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

How the USA development program became the world’s best junior hockey pipeline

There's one second on the clock in the 2018 Under-18 World Championship gold medal game, and the puck is on the stick of Oliver Wahlstrom, arguably the best shooter in the 2018 draft class.

But Wahlstrom's shot misses the net, and the United States settles for a heartbreaking silver medal – but it wasn't just heartbreaking for the obvious reasons.

"I did an interview after, and they asked me what I was thinking, and the first thing that came to my head was I wasn't mad we lost, I wasn't sad we lost, it was just the last time I got to dress with my best friends," forward Joel Farabee told theScore.

Seth Appert, head coach of the Under-18 team at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP), says the bonds between players in the program to which Farabee referred are forged through the unique shared adversity created by the NTDP’s environment.

"They’re 16 years old, they’re away from mom and dad, they’re living in a strange house with another family, and there's no veterans to take care of them," Appert said. "There's no senior captain like in college. There's no veterans like in pro or in junior. They're here, on their own, all 16-year-olds in that room together, in other people's houses, trying to figure out this on their own."

For most of the players, the Under-17 year is the first time they're away from home for such a long period of time. More importantly, for many of them, it's the first time they learn to fail. They're taken out of their comfort zones and thrown onto a team where, for most of them, they're no longer the best.

That very struggle sets them on the path to success - and that will be especially clear at this week's NHL draft, where more than a dozen players with connections to the NTDP could be among the top 50 selected. In an era when great talents are emerging from a variety of leagues and countries, the USA Hockey NTDP is leading the way by a significant margin.

Developing USA Hockey's Future

The NTDP was created in 1996 with the goal of centralizing the top Under-18 hockey players in the United States under one metaphorical roof, in a competitive and comprehensive development environment.

"You're taking 22 of the top players in our country, from one birth year, and you're putting them in a really competitive but development-friendly, healthy environment for two years," Appert said. "Our mission here - the coaches are not charged with winning games Friday night in the USHL, although we do believe winning is part of development. But our mission is to develop our country’s next wave of elite hockey players."

The program is split into two teams – the Under-17 and the Under-18. While the U17 team plays most of the 60 games in a USHL season, the U18 team plays around 25 of those games and spends the rest of its season competing against college programs.

Both the NCAA and the USHL have players older than the members of the NTDP teams (the USHL allows for players up to 20 years old, while those in the NCAA are sometimes as old as 24), so NTDP players find themselves facing challenging opponents every night.

At lower levels, if a player had the puck stolen from him, chances were good he could go after it and take it right back. However, if he loses that same puck in a game against the Boston University Terriers, chances are good his opponent has already used that puck to score (and given the Terriers' current lineup, chances are good he lost that puck to a former NTDP teammate).

"I think we played 15 to 20 college hockey games our U18 year so going into college hockey, I felt comfortable for sure," said NTDP alum and University of Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes. "The program's awesome. If you really wanna be a hockey player, that's the spot to do it."

Appert said the vast majority of his players would be the star on their team anywhere else, but at the NTDP they quickly learn they can't all be the best.

They try anyway.

"There’s a lot of places that if one of the elite players takes a day off from practice they still can get away with it - they're still an elite player," Appert said. "Here, if you take a day off practice you get exposed by your teammates because your teammates are so competitive."

That competition doesn't just exist on the ice. It follows players into the weight room, into the film room, and even home to video-gaming sessions (Fortnite is the current game of choice, having supplanted the NHL game series). Players are challenged daily by teammates, coaches, and opponents alike.

"They test you, they test your character, and they work you pretty hard," said Bode Wilde, a draft-eligible NTDP defenseman who will join Hughes at the University of Michigan next season. "Coming out of there I feel prepared for whatever's next."

The 2018 Talent: Forwards

The depth of highly skilled players who are coming out of the NTDP year after year is something to behold. In the top 50 of NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, there are 13 players with NTDP ties. For comparison purposes, there are only eight QMJHL players in the top 50.

One NTDP player who many believe didn't get his due this season after missing significant time due to injury is center Jake Wise.

"We had a tremendous second half where we won a lot of hockey games and did some really special things internationally and in the USHL, and I think that a lot of it in people's minds was tied to Jack (Hughes) coming up," Appert said. "But I think what people underestimate is the importance of Jake Wise returning to our lineup.”

Wise, ranked 38th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings, is a strong two-way center with elite puck-handling skills and hockey sense.

"If you would extrapolate his offensive numbers out for a full season instead of a half season, he’d be right there with Farabee and on the heels of Wahlstrom as our leading scorers," Appert said. "He’s a terrific offensive player."

Farabee and Wahlstrom are two of this year’s most highly touted NTDP players. While Wahlstrom is expected to go in the top 10 of the draft, Farabee is considered more of a mid-first-rounder. Some pundits have cited concerns that Farabee is a product of the stars he plays with, but the man himself isn’t concerned.

"Jack Hughes and Oliver Wahlstrom, they're definitely really special players, but if you look at - if you break down our games, we're all really different players," Farabee said. "I think me being a playmaker and a defense-first guy where Wahlstrom's a shooter, skill guy, and Jack Hughes is more of an all-around guy, I think we all play different roles and I think I played my role to the best of my ability. You can compare us but our games are so different that I think it’s really hard to compare us."

Appert agrees when it comes to Farabee's two-way contributions on the ice.

"You could certainly argue that he was our best penalty killer," the coach said. "If we're winning the game in the third period late he’s gonna be on the ice because he’s one of if not the most defensively responsible players on the team. And yet he still was second on the team in scoring."

The 2018 Talent: Defensemen

In a draft loaded with high-end defensemen, quite a few of the best either play or have played for the NTDP. In addition to Wilde and (Quinn) Hughes, K'Andre Miller and Mattias Samuelsson are considered potential first-rounders.

Samuelsson, the captain of the U18 team, has an approach to the game that's beyond his years. In person, in situations that call for it, he gives off an air of leadership; with his teammates, he's a caring and fun young man who happens to have a letter on his chest.

"We rely on him," Appert said. "He does all the hard things you need from a defenseman to win - yet he still was right up there at the top of our group in defensive scoring as well. And that was with minimal power-play time, especially in the second half of the year. He provides offense. He's a great defender. He goes about his business in a real professional way, shows up every day with a good attitude to work and get better."

The defensive side of Samuelsson’s game, according to Appert, is in great shape. Samuelsson himself thinks he's around "three to four years" from the NHL; in that time he’ll likely work on improving the speed with which he makes decisions and transitions the puck.

Meanwhile, Miller is new to playing defense - compared to his teammates, anyway.

"He made the switch sometime in that year before he got to the NTDP so he’s only two-and-a-half, three years into being a defenseman," Appert said. "I think this year he took huge strides in using his athleticism and skating ability - he’s already an elite skater. He’d be an elite skater in the NHL if he played tonight."

Miller’s strengths lie in the way he uses his skating and hockey sense to take time and space away from opponents, and to join the rush when he judges the time is right. Given his high-level vision, his judgment is often correct.

"He just got better every month this year, and he probably - you could certainly argue that he made as many strides this year as anybody on our team," Appert said. "He's going to a great program in Wisconsin (in the NCAA), and they're gonna keep developing him as he continues to understand and gain experience and knowledge about the position that he’s playing."

Appert added that the coaching staff wanted their defensemen to be active offensively, and that Miller wasn't the only player who benefited from that strategy.

"With a new coaching staff coming in this year, with our team, they really changed up the dynamic and the systems we're playing," Wilde said. “The way we were playing D was a lot easier, and our D-corps really jumped into the way the coaches wanted us to play feet first and we did a great job. Defense was the number one improvement for me.”

Perhaps the best-known of the defensemen group is Quinn Hughes (Jack's older brother), whom Appert also had a chance to work with at a higher level as the youngest player on the American team at the 2018 World Championship.

"I thought Quinn’s game grew every game he was there," Appert said. "He started the tournament pretty good, but by the end he was playing extremely high-level minutes against high-level NHL competition."

While calling Hughes a "world-class player," Appert noted that strengths of his game in the tournament included his playmaking and his ability to break out the puck efficiently.

"I don’t think he gets enough credit for how he defends," Appert said. "I hear a lot of people knock his defensive game and I don’t think that's the case. I think he defends extremely well, I just think he defends differently than a lot of people might want him to or think a defenseman should defend. He doesn’t defend like a 6-foot-3 defenseman does. He defends with his skating ability, his stick, his mind, by angling people and taking away their time and space."

Hughes echoed Appert's sentiments.

"I think the knock on me is my defensive game," Hughes said. "Some teams think it's really good, some teams think I could use some work on it. That's why I went to go play college hockey this year. I went to go play against older, stronger competition and I think I did a really good job at the World Championship proving that."

Despite being one of the smaller defensemen in the draft, Hughes isn’t concerned about that either. He thinks his play speaks for itself.

"Maybe 25 to 30 years ago it would’ve been a problem, but not in this day and age, I don’t think," Hughes said. "Honestly, it's more about like, how I'm gonna handle bigger guys in the corner for my defensive game. That's the question I always get, and what I always say is, 'The same way I did at the World Championship.' The way I position myself, my skating, the way I position my stick and use it the right way and everything like that. It’s not gonna be outmuscling guys at the next level, it’s just gonna be about outsmarting guys.”

In 1996, three Americans were chosen in the 26-pick first round of the NHL draft. In 2016, 20 years after the inception of the NTDP, 11 Americans were selected in the first round. Meanwhile, the 28 Americans chosen in 2016's first three rounds tied the 2010 draft for the second most ever.

Despite numerous rankings and mock drafts, no one knows yet how many players with NTDP ties will be selected in the first round this year. Of that group, how many will become regular NHL players is even less certain.

What's certain is that the program has made an indelible mark on hockey in the United States, and is leading the way when it comes to player development.

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on twitter at @HockeyWthHannah.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Flames legend Hakan Loob named team’s head European pro scout

The Calgary Flames hired Hakan Loob as the team's head European pro scout, the team announced Monday.

Loob is one of the best players in Flames history, and one of the best Europeans to ever lace 'em up. He recorded 429 points in 450 NHL games - all with Calgary - including a 50-goal, 100-point campaign in 1987-88.

After helping the Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1989, Loob's age-28 season, he returned to his native Sweden to play for Farjestads BK Karlstad for the next seven years before taking over as the club's general manager. He was eventually named team president, and retired in 2017.

"We want to grow our presence in Europe,'' said Flames general manager Brad Treliving. "It's an area we want to expand. Hakan has a great eye for talent, he's familiar with Europe and he's a worker. This isn't just because Hakan was a great Flame. He's so well connected over there. Hakan Loob walks into a room and he's well known and well respected."

Loob is one of 28 players in the Triple Gold Club, which requires an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal, and a Stanley Cup ring.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Seattle expansion group hires Dave Tippett as senior advisor

The Tod Leiweke-led group that's bidding to bring an NHL expansion team to Seattle has hired Dave Tippett as a senior advisor, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.

Tippett, who last served as the head coach and VP of hockey operations with the Arizona Coyotes, is expected to help oversee the expansion process and give feedback on items such as the construction of a training facility and acquiring an AHL affiliate.

"There are a lot of times where you need somebody with some hockey experience, whether it be infrastructure like the dressing rooms, the training facilities, or putting together the groundwork of what a skeleton hockey staff would look like," Tippett told Baker.

"First and foremost, operationally, you have to set the culture of the organization,’" he added. "There are a lot of key things, like where the infrastructure of the team is going to be and figuring out the market. But the ability to define the culture of a team that can really grow and prosper, that's first and foremost.

"It comes before you start hiring people. Before you start getting players and doing drafts and stuff like that."

Some have also speculated that Tippett could become the team's first head coach, but no decision will be made on that front until the franchise is awarded, which won't happen until at least September.

"We'll see, I'm not ruling it out," Tippett said of returning to coaching. "It would have to be the right situation.

"But also, I'm intrigued about getting into another part of the game with this."

The NHL Board of Governors will meet this week, but commissioner Gary Bettman has already noted that Seattle expansion won't be on the agenda, leaving the meetings in September and December as the earliest the Seattle group can be awarded a franchise.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Report: Rangers’ Hayes attracting significant trade interest

As the NHL draft draws near and trade talks intensify, the New York Rangers are receiving significant interest in forward Kevin Hayes, sources indicated to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.

The 26-year-old Hayes is a restricted free agent fresh off a campaign in which he scored a career-high 25 goals. He has spent the last four seasons with the Rangers after joining as a free agent in 2014.

Coming off a two-year contract that carried a $2.6-million cap hit, Hayes' departure would mark the latest big-name player to leave the Rangers, following in the footsteps of Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, and Rick Nash, who were shipped out at last year's trade deadline. The Blueshirts also parted ways with longtime forward Derek Stepan at the 2017 draft.

While Brooks does not indicate what the Rangers would seek in return for Hayes, prospects or draft picks seem logical with the team in the early stages of a rebuild. Prior to last year's trade deadline, the club released a letter to fans indicating it could deal "familiar faces" in order to recoup younger talent.

Copyright © 2018 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Remember, we are all Canucks!