Washington has signed forward Matt Hendricks to a one-year, two-way contract, the team announced Monday afternoon. It's both vindication and reassurance for Hendricks, who arrived in training camp on a professional tryout after being caught in a difficult free-agent market this summer, that he's doing the right things to have a shot at staying in the NHL.
"I'm very excited. It's kind of hard to explain in words," Hendricks said. "They've seen enough out of me to want me back in the organization; not necessarily have they seen enough for me to make the Washington Capitals, but it's a stepping stone. And I'm closer to my goal of sticking here and staying in Washington."
After proving himself in the ECHL and AHL, Hendricks earned his first full season in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10, registering 16 points in 56 regular-season games.
But he didn't expect to have so few suitors when free agency opened up this past summer.
"It's hard to explain what happened this offseason with free agency," Hendricks said. "There's a lot of players still left out there that remain unsigned ,a lot of players looking for opportunities, and I was in that same boat. To explain why, I don't really know, but... I did expect a little bit more talk throughout the summer months there after July 1. It just wasn't there."
Through two preseason games the Capitals have seen two sides of Hendricks, who has experience playing all three forward positions and is a natural center. Against Columbus he scored a hat trick and against Nashville he showed some of the grit and agitator capabilities that make him an asset as a grinder and energy player.
"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 said. "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."