Attaboy. (Photo credit: Elsa)
George McPhee doesn’t tip his hand often, but during an interview with DC101’s Elliot In the Morning last week, the man some call The Undertaker revealed his softer, less-cage-matchy side when he discussed Matt Hendricks’ new four-year, $7.4-million deal with the Nashville Predators.
“I was really happy for Matty,” McPhee said. “I called him I think the day of or the day after he signed and I told him beforehand that, ‘I hope he hits a home run out there.'”
That may be strange to hear for Washington Capitals fans who hoped McPhee would literally go to the Matt to re-sign the fourth-line center. Hendricks was a leader in the locker room, a dependable player, one of the flashier shootout experts in the league, and was capable on the face-off dot to boot. He dropped his gloves 32 times in his Capitals career and had a strong presence in the community. He was one of the most beloved players on the team.
McPhee explained that the salary cap and the Caps’ high number of upper-echelon players prevented him from not making a better offer.
“There are some teams that don’t have what we have in terms of high-end players,” McPhee said. “Nashville’s got Weber; we’ve got Ovechkin. Two great players with two big contracts. But we also have a Backstrom. We also have a Green. So I can’t pay players on our fourth line $2-million a year. They’ve got to be a million or less.”
McPhee also knew Hendricks would not be returning to the team in 2013-14 as early as the trade deadline.
“I told him what we could do,” McPhee said. “We made our best offers at the deadline, and I said, ‘You know, Matty. If it doesn’t work with us, I hope you get a great contract out there and take care of your family.’ And he did.”
McPhee continued, “[Matt's a] great guy. This was a positive experience. We really benefitted from the relationship, and now we’ll move on to other players whether it’s a Volpatti or a Latta.” Hard-working prospects Tom Wilson and Garrett Mitchell are also waiting in the wings, ready for a big-league opportunity.
No matter who ends up capturing the roster spot, “somebody else has to play now.”
They’ll have some mighty big skates to fill.