Let’s be honest. Matt Hendricks’ rise from a training camp roster hopeful to Capitals fan favorite is probably the best story of the year. In a matter of months he has become an integral piece of the franchise and quite possibly the heart and soul of this year’s club.
For his trouble, George McPhee and the Caps brass decided to reward him with a two-year, 1.6 million dollar contract extension on Wednesday.
Hendricks is having a career year with seven goals and 12 assists, but it’s not always the stat sheet that indicates how valuable he’s been.
He’s dropped the gloves 12 times, helping add some grit to a lineup in desperate need of an enforcer. He’s fought the likes of Sean Avery and Steve Downie, but most importantly squared off against Boston’s Gregory Campbell not once, but twice after Campbell ran Alex Ovechkin headfirst into the boards in a preseason game.
Hendricks fought Campbell in the second game of a home-and-home during the preseason, but engaged him again in October during the regular season just to get his point across. Two words: total badassery.
The 29-year old Minnesota native came to Washington a desperate player. He entered pro hockey in 2003-04, but didn’t play an NHL game until 2008-09 with Colorado. The Avalanche didn’t re-sign him this past offseason and so he accepted an invite to Capitals training camp. He made a name for himself with a hat trick against Columbus in Washington’s first preseason game and hasn’t looked back since.
Hendricks has become one of the go-to-guys in the locker room as well. He is congenial with the media and tremendous with the fans, answering every question and signing every autograph. You get the feeling that he is incredibly grateful to the Capitals for presenting him with this opportunity and he’s done everything possible to acknowledge the team and its supporters.
However, it’s not simply about being a good guy. It’s about production and getting value for an investment. The Capitals certainly get that in this deal. Hendricks is an ideal player to stash on your third line to provide hustle, energy, and the timely goal.
“No matter what my role is in a game, no matter how much ice time I get, at the end of it I want to be able to say I changed the game,” Hendricks told the Washington Post in September. “So sometimes it might be scoring a goal, but for the most part it’s the way I play, with the grit and the energy that I bring for the club.”
At $800,000 a year, we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving to be on this club in his role. Time to grab some Hendricks apparel because he’s here to stay.