Free agency: Major moves shake up Caps roster
Hours after signing a four-year, $7.4 million contract with the Nashville Predators, Matt Hendricks agreed to a phone interview with CSNWashington.com to discuss his decision to sign in Nashville and his memories of playing in Washington for the past three seasons.
What follows is a transcript of that conversation.
Congratulations on your new deal, Matt.
Thank you, I appreciate that. It’s going to be great fun, I think. A four-year deal, I couldn’t be happier. My wife’s happy, so I’m happy. [Laughs]
What led to you signing with Nashville?
I made a list of my top teams and they were up there. I actually went down on a visit during the interview period [Wednesday] and got to meet everybody and take a look around. [Predators alternate captain] Mike Fisher picked me up and drove me around for about an hour and showed me some of the sights and some of the neighborhoods and it felt really good. I felt like they really wanted me. It’s a place where the coach [Barry Trotz] plays a system that’s kind of right up my alley and really fits me. Any time a player, especially in my role, is wanted and will be used more, it’s important, so I look forward to that.
Did Mike introduce you to his wife [Carrie Underwood]?
I didn’t get to meet her. I should have asked him.
What were your first impressions of Nashville and the team they’re putting together?
It’s beautiful. You’ve got your downtown there and the mountains. It’s really pretty. Traffic’s not nearly as bad as D.C., that’s for sure. It just looks like a great spot to raise a family. I like the way the team is headed. I know they had a little bit of a down year last year with not making the playoffs. But they have a great defensive core; they’ve got one of the best goalies in the league by far [Pekka Rinne]; and they made some good moves today [signing Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom] to find a way to put more goals in the net. I think definitely the team is going in the right direction and they play the right brand of hockey, in my opinion.
What are your thoughts when you look back at your career with the Caps?
I think about the memories. I think about the great teams I played on, chances and opportunities that slipped through our fingers. I think about that and it’s kind of a letdown, but what I’m going to remember when this sinks in is all the guys I’ve played with, all the players in that organization that became friends, that were over for barbecues playing with my kids. They’re all great memories because it’s a great family in Washington and the organization is top notch.
How about your memories on the ice?
I always think of Boston, Game 7 of the playoffs last year. Winning that game in overtime, Joel Ward scoring that goal and jumping into the glass and celebrating. That was a great time for us. Our team played hard in that series. It was a great series and to beat the defending Cup champs that year was a great feeling and I scored my first playoff goal, so that was even better. So I’ll always think of that game.
With your contract discussions with the Caps, was there much talk after the trade deadline?
There was, but I think we were just too far apart. That’s what happens with the salary cap game. There are other players that need to get signed -- restricted players [Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson] that need to get signed -- and a lot of the money that’s left over needs to go to them. I was treated outstanding there by George [McPhee] and by all the coaches I had. They treated me like a man and that’s all I can really ask for. It’s just too bad that with the salary cap and with the way the game is now on the business side of it, that it kind of forced both our hands and I had to leave. I wanted to stay and I know they wanted me there. It just didn’t work out.
Do you try not to take the business side of the game personally?
Yeah, you do. That’s one of the things an agent is always telling you and it’s one of the things you’re always telling yourself. But you put so much into one season and when you’ve done that for three, such as I, you put a lot into it. You go through a lot of adversity and a lot of injuries to try to win and when you’re not brought back it’s tough. But you’ve got to remember it is a business. If George had a checkbook that was always full and he could spend anything he wants, he would take players he wanted back and he would have signed me back if they would have allowed him to.
What would you tell other players about playing in Washington?
I would tell them it’s a very talented team. It’s an exciting team to play for. I played with some of the best players in the world, starting with Ovi. It’s a great city, outstanding fans. The support was great. I don’t think I played one game at VerizonCenter that wasn’t sold out. It was a lot of fun. I had some great years there.
You were very involved with the military here. Did you gain a new appreciation for that in your time here?
I was so exposed to it in D.C. I had been involved a little bit, but when my wife [Kim] got to work with Defending The Blue Line organization I was really blown away with how close the military is in the D.C. area. You go to the rink every day at Kettler and every day a member of the military would ask me for an autograph and say thanks. It’s just amazing how many people in that area have served our country and are thankful for what we do for them, but in my opinion it’s all about what they’ve done for us.
Will you stay involved when you go to Nashville?
One hundred percent. I’m going to work hard with Defending The Blue Line and do whatever we can in Nashville. I know we still do a lot in D.C. and hopefully that work continues.