One day after a pair of French-language reports detailed his unhappiness with his role on the team, Capitals center Mathieu Perreault expounded upon remarks in those stories to local reporters on Thursday.
Perreault has centered the fourth line in each of the first two games for Washington, but his ice time last Saturday against Tampa Bay was a paltry 3 minutes, 52 seconds and on Tuesday against Winnipeg it was just 4:58.
With top centers Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Ribeiro in front of him, Perreault has said that he understands a top-six position isn’t in the cards here right now. But Perreault essentially told both La Presse and Le Journal de Montreal in separate interviews this week that if he isn’t in the Caps’ long-term plans then they should trade him. On Thursday Perreault wanted that distinction made clear: He hasn’t specifically asked general manager George McPhee for a trade, but playing less than five minutes a night is also untenable.
“I wouldn’t say frustrated. I’m obviously not too happy. No one would be happy to be playing that much minutes,” Perreault said. “But I think [the article] said I asked for a trade. I didn’t ask for a trade. Obviously I like it here, been around for four years, all my chums are [here]. I don’t wanna go anywhere. All I want is a little bit more ice time.”
And so Perreault, who was a restricted free agent last summer and signed a two-year, $2.1 million deal, had a brief chat with coach Adam Oates and McPhee on Thursday. Oates said he actually apologized to Perreault on the bench early in the second period during the Tampa Bay game for his limited role.
“I’m still learning my players. They’re still learning me. I obviously want to get that guy more ice time and the other night was kind of no different,” Oates said. “We were behind so I wanted to get the other guys to produce before him. But he’s going to get his chance and basically the point is if you’ve got a beef, no problem. Let’s just talk about it.”
Perreault, 25, has been stuck in the same role for the better part of four seasons now. He was recalled multiple times during the 2009-10 season as a rookie and scored four goals with five assists in 21 games. He again split time between AHL Hershey and Washington in 2010-11 with seven goals and seven assists in 35 NHL games. Last year was his first full time in the NHL and in 64 games he had a career-best 16 goals with 14 assists.
Perreault reiterated what he told reporters after signing his new contract – that the team had discussed him playing top-six minutes even if that wasn’t a guarantee. Winger Alex Semin left via free agency, but the Caps signed forward Wojtek Wolski to bolster its depth up top.
“It was [discussed] a little bit. But there’s always things changes. They sign the other guys,” Perreault said. “I’m fine with a third and fourth-line role. Obviously I’m not happy with the amount of minute I get. I’d like to get a little bit more, which is normal. No one would want to play that kind of minutes. It’s early in the season, it’s only two games in, so I’m staying positive and looking forward for the next few games here.”
Oates previously explained his thinking about Perreault’s role after Wednesday’s practice: “You also got to look at the guys in front of him. I can’t put him in front of Mike Ribeiro or Nick Backstrom. So he’s gonna have to wait his turn and do the little things and keep improving his game. But if I can find minutes I will definitely do that.”
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