Two days after Mike Ribeiro’s agent, Don Meehan, told CSNWashington “there really aren’t any updates” on contract negotiations with the Capitals, the agent for Matt Hendricks said pretty much the same thing.
“It’s quiet right now,” Michael Wulkan told CSNWashington, confirming he has not had negotiations with Caps general manager George McPhee since sometime during the regular season.
Should that be taken as a sign that Hendricks, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5, will not be returning to the Capitals next season?
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” Wulkan replied.
“I think it’s too early to tell. There’s a whole month left. Listen, George has told Matt numerous times that he wants him back; he knows what his value is. But wanting him back and paying him are two different things. Matt doesn’t want to leave, but he understands the business of it.”
Hendricks, who turns 32 on June 17, recently completed a two-year contract that paid him $850,000 last season and $800,000 this season. He is coming off a season in which he led the Caps in penalty minutes  and fighting majors  and is likely seeking a contract similar to the one signed by Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens last summer.
Prust, 29, made $800,000 with the Rangers last season and, after recording five goals, 12 assists and 156 penalty minutes in New York, he signed a four-year, $10 million contract with the Canadiens that carries a $2.5 million cap hit.
Conversely, the Capitals are probably using comparables like Bruins fourth liners Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
Campbell, 29, had eight goals, eight assists and 80 penalty minutes for the Bruins in 2011-12 and was given a three-year, $4.8 million extension that carries a $1.6 million cap hit.
Thornton, 35, recorded five goals, eight assists and 154 penalty minutes for the Bruins last season and was rewarded with a two-year, $2.2 million extension, bumping his cap hit from $812,500 to $1.1 million.
Based on those two contracts, the Caps might be willing to give Hendricks a two- or three-year deal with a cap hit in the $1.5 million range. And that could be more than $500,000 less than what Hendricks feels he can get on the open market.
“Matt knows there’s value for Matt Hendricks out there,” Wulkan said. “He knows it’s a business, but he wants to stay in Washington if they can work it out. If they can’t, he’s a big boy and he can move forward.
“People want a guy that can fight, that can score, that’ll block shots, that’ll kill penalties, that’ll take faceoffs.”
It is entirely possible that the Caps want to sign Hendricks but simply don’t have the salary space to accommodate him.
The Caps have 20 players under contract for next season and are about $5.6 million under the new $64.3 million cap.
Defenseman Jeff Schultz, who has requested a trade, will be either dealt by the Capitals or bought out of the final year of his contract, freeing up an additional $2.75 million.
That leaves roughly $8.4 million in cap space.
For the sake of argument let’s assume $5 million of that space goes to restricted free agents Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson. That leaves the Caps with a 21-man roster and only $3.4 million with which to sign Ribeiro, Hendricks or any other free agent they have targeted.
With all that in mind, Wulkan said he’s not ruling out a last-minute deal with the Capitals.
“Nothing ever gets done until the last minute,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the last minute nothing would get done. It’s a negotiation. He’s unrestricted and he knows it and he’s looking forward to it.”