Peter Laviolette has been named the new coach of the Washington Capitals, the team announced Tuesday.
Laviolette, 55, has 18 years of experience as a head coach and ranks 16th in all-time wins with a career record of 637-425-123. Laviolette won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and most recently coached the Predators, but was fired in January after five and a half seasons with the team. Laviolette also led the 2010 Flyers and 2017 Predators to the Stanley Cup Final.
« We feel very fortunate to be able to hire someone of Peter’s caliber and to have him available at a time of need for our organization, » general manager Brian MacLellan said. « His track record with different organizations, he’s been challenged a number of times of having teams that have different personalities in the locker room and on the ice and he’s been able to adapt to different groups and be successful in the league. »
Laviolette is still under contract with the Predators for next season, making $2.5 million, but the Capitals are expected to cover that salary as part of the deal.
« You have a terrific cast of talent that’s big and strong and can play the game aggressive and has a chance to be successful on a nightly basis, » Laviolette said. « I’m excited to go in and be here and be a part of this and add any layer that I can as a coach to try and help get to that next step. »
Laviolette replaces Todd Reirden, who was fired three days after Washington was eliminated from the playoffs this summer. The Capitals hired Reirden, one of their top assistants, after getting into a contract dispute with coach Barry Trotz shortly after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. However, the Capitals were knocked out in the first round in Reirden’s first two seasons, including a five-game loss to Trotz’s Islanders this summer.
MacLellan was clear that the top criteria he was looking for in a new coach was experience. Mike Babcock and Gerard Gallant were Washington’s two other finalists, according to sources. Trotz was the only one of six coaches in the Alex Ovechkin era with previous head-coaching experience. The other five were rookies.
« I think when you take over a team, you come in with an open mind and a blank slate on the team and the players and the individual personnel, » said Laviolette, who has also coached the U.S. at the world championships and was an assistant at the 2010 Olympics. « And then from there it’s about building your identity on the ice, setting a standard of what you expect on a daily basis and working together throughout the course of the year to try and prepare yourself for the playoffs. »
« Coming to Washington, that’s my priority is to try and build something where when the players take the ice the truly feel like they’re invincible, » Laviolette said.
The Capitals face another offseason in which they are strapped by the salary cap, which is expected to stay flat at $81.5 million. Goalie Braden Holtby, who won the Cup in 2018, is an unrestricted free agent and could walk as the team turns to 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov in net. Ovechkin, meanwhile, is set to become a free agent in 2021.
« Peter has a track record of establishing a culture, and it’s one of his priorities, » MacLellan said. « Both me, and I assume the players, [know] that’s a big strength of his moving forward and it’s a big reason why we hired him. »
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