Hendy high-fives fans as he walks down the tunnel to the Capitals locker room. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Matt Hendricks is a beloved player in Washington, but by no means is he an essential one. The Caps know that, and he knows that. With his two-year, $1.65 million contract expiring on July 5, he may have played his last game as a Cap. Hendricks, though, hopes that’s not true.
“I hope I don’t get to that date in July,” he said Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as the team cleared out their lockers. “I hope I’m back here in Washington.”
“We’ve been in the negotiating process over the course of the season,” Hendricks added. “It’s a business. It’s a big part of the business. You want to get what you feel you deserve and what you feel is right.”
Hendricks’s agent Michael Wulkan, for what it’s worth, didn’t reply to a request for comment.
The Capitals don’t have a ton of room to work with as things stand now this offseason. Washington has about $5.6 million in cap space, but they also have Mike Ribeiro, Karl Alzner, and Marcus Johansson to sign — things they’ll likely be more focused on. Grinders, too, can easily be replaced through the organization and if necessary the free agent market. And Hendricks isn’t an integral player on the ice, however fond fans and teammates are of him.
So Matt Hendricks is done in DC, right? Perhaps not. As a reporters asked one Capital after another about the 31-year-old forward, the players continued to give the same answer: it’s not just about how he plays, it’s about how he makes others play. Hendricks, they say, is vocal in the locker room. He pushes his teammates to do better and, in turn, they do. He’s always out there, at practice or in a game, whether he just got hit in the face with a puck or not.
“He’s a total package player,” his friend and fellow fourth-liner Jay Beagle said. “You need those guys on your team, those role players.”
Of course, intangibles are hard to quantify — they are after all not tangible. But if Hendricks can make the people around him give more and play better, maybe that’s worth an extra hundred grand or two a year. How George McPhee feels about that, though, is unknown.
There is another thing that might help keep Hendy around: his wild symphony of exaggerated dekes and leg lifts when five minutes of overtime isn’t enough.
“He’s got that shootout move that not many guys can do,” Beagle said. “I’ve tried it, I can’t do it.”