When Capitals fourth-line center Matt Hendricks sits down with general manager George McPhee to try to hammer out a new contract, he might want to leave his agent at home and bring a few teammates.
“He’s probably one of the best guys I’ve ever played with,” fellow fourth-liner Jay Beagle said. “You can talk to him about anything. He brings a certain work ethic every time you’re on the ice.
“He fights, he hits, he’s a good leader in the dressing room, he scores big goals, he has that shootout move not many guys can do. I 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 his face. He’s a good role player and those guys are hard to come by.”
Jason Chimera had a different answer when asked if Hendricks falls under a category difficult to put onto paper.
“There’s always changeover from year to year, but he’s one of those guys you’re not going to replace,” Chimera said. “It’s not an easy job to go out there and fight guys twice his size. He sticks up for guys on the team and brings energy when no one else has it.”
As well-liked and well-respected as Hendricks is in the Capitals’ locker room he apparently believes he is worth more than the Caps are willing to spend.
In a season in which the Capitals announced the re-signings of Eric Fehr [two years, $3 million], Aaron Volpatti [two years, $1.15 million], John Erskine [two years, $3.925 million], Jack Hillen [two years, $1.4 million], Braden Holtby [two years, $3.7 million] and Michal Neuvirth [two years, $5 million], Hendricks had a series of contract talks that ended with no resolution.
“We’ve been in the negotiating process throughout the course of the season,” Hendricks said. “That’s about as far as I’ll get into depth on that.”
Hendricks, who will turn 32 next month, is at the end of a two-year contract that paid him $850,000 last season and $800,000 this season. In 48 games with the Caps he recorded five goals and three assists and piled up a team-high 73 penalty minutes.
By comparison, New York Rangers fourth-liner Arron Asham, who led his team in penalty minutes and has put up similar numbers in his career, makes $1 million.
McPhee said he recognizes Hendricks is a “really valuable” asset to the Capitals and said he “loves everything about him,” but he also expressed concern over fitting Hendricks’ demands into the Caps’ salary structure.
“Because when you’re in a cap world sometimes you just don’t have the choices,” McPhee said. “This is what you have to work with and if it doesn’t fit for them you move on and get someone else. That’s the world we live in now.”
Hendricks said he’d like to re-start contract talks with the Caps in the coming weeks and hopes he has a contract in hand before the July 5 start of free agency.
“I hope I’m back here in Washington,” he said. “My wife and kids and I have made this our home. We’ve come a long way in the few years I’ve played here. I really enjoy the guys I work with every day.”
After four full seasons in the minors Hendricks has played the past five seasons in the NHL and said he believes he’s established himself as a versatile and valuable player for the Caps. But he also knows loyalty can only go so far at the negotiating table.
“It’s a business and it’s a big part of the business when it comes to player salaries,” he said. “You want to get what you feel you deserve and what you feel is right. That’s what happens in a negotiating process.”
And if it’s not in Washington, Hendricks knows it will be somewhere else.
“Hopefully,” he told reporters before leaving Kettler for his summer home in Minnesota, “we’ll see you again.”