The other prominent unrestricted free agent for the Capitals this summer is Matt Hendricks. The veteran winger has set himself up for the one big contract in his NHL career.
Hendricks, 31, was plucked from the Colorado Avalanche organization before the 2010 season and quickly generated a presence in preseason. He has missed just nine games for Washington over the last three seasons. After scoring nine goals his first year here (2010-11), Hendricks signed his first two-year, one-way contract at the NHL level. He made $850,000 each of the last two seasons. That number should rise this summer. So will Hendricks remain in Washington? He hopes he can sign an extension before free agency even hits on July 5. There have been talks between the two sides all season, but other than that Hendricks remained tight lipped.
“Selfish? I don’t know if that’s the right word,” Hendricks said. “It’s a business, and it’s part of the business. It’s a big part of the business when it comes to players’ salaries, I would assume. In my opinion. You know, you want to get what you feel you deserve and what is right, and that’s what happens in the negotiating process.”
Hendricks had five goals and three assists in 48 games this season. But his value must be measured beyond points. He is a vocal presence in the dressing room, a source of energy on and off the ice, and almost always willing to pay a physical price to help his team win. Hendricks was credited with seven blocked shots in Game 5 – a 2-1 overtime win for the Caps, who had to kill off multiple New York power plays late in the second period and third period.
“He fights, he hits, he’s a good leader in the dressing room,” forward Jay Beagle said. “He scores big goals and he’s got that shootout move that not many guys can do. I’ve tried it. I can’t do it. He’s a total package player, really. You need those guys on your team. He’ll go down and take a puck off the face if he has to block one. He’ll do it. He’s a good role player and those guys are hard to come by.”
But it’s also true that there is a $64.3 million salary cap in the NHL next year and there is only a finite amount of money for Washington general manager George McPhee to improve his club. Is paying a fourth-line player north of $1.5 million a realistic scenario? Maybe Hendricks won’t get that much on the open market and maybe he’s willing to take less to stay in a city he says has been good to him. But someone could be squeezed out if the Caps don’t get creative.
“[Hendricks] obviously does all the things that you’d want your typical fourth-liner to do,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s hard though with just the way everything works and trying to fit all the guys in under cap and the amount of players and this and that and him being in the position that he’s in. It would suck to see a guy like that go.”
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