“I thought we made a lot of good progress last year with our season. Going into the second round and being a team that could really compete,” Brouwer said in a conference call Wednesday. “Plus this year we got – Mike Ribeiro is a good, fine center who just creates a lot more offensive threats on our team and just kind of rounds out our center position much better.”

Brouwer, 27, signed a three-year, $11 million contract extension that will keep him in Washington through the 2015-16 season. He had one more year left on his existing contract ($2.35 million in 2012-13).

“We had kind of had talks all throughout the summer, wanted to see if something could get done before the season started – whether or not there was going to be a delay in the season,” Brouwer said. “So I think on both sides we both really wanted to get something finished here.”

The Capitals acquired Brouwer from Chicago during the 2011 NHL Draft in exchange for their first-round draft pick that year. At the time, General Manager George McPhee said he was eager to add another physical forward who had plenty of leadership potential.

Brouwer recorded 18 goals and 15 assists with the Capitals in 2011-12, spent time on the top two lines as well as on a shut-down unit later in the year during Dale Hunter’s tenure as coach. He also helped offer stability as the Capitals prepared for and played through plenty of pressure packed games down the stretch to clinch a playoff berth and in the postseason itself.

“We have a rather young team, a lot of guys have won at pretty much level they’ve been at,” Brouwer said. “A lot of the guys know how to win but sometimes it’s just [a matter of] taking those emotions and taking that preparation and channeling it into a game, very important games. Hopefully last year I was able to bring some secondary experience as far as games played and playoff games.”

Suffice it to say it’s been a busy summer for Brouwer as he and his wife, Carmen, have prepared for their first child while he worked out a contract extension and stayed up to date on the NHL’s labor negotiations.

Brouwer is one of a handful of Capitals attending a gathering of nearly 300 players in New York for NHLPA meetings this week. The Vancouver native said he’s holding out hope that a deal can be struck prior to when the current collective bargaining agreement expires Saturday at 11:59 p.m.

If no deal is struck and the NHL locks out its players, though, Brouwer said he likely won’t head to Washington for the long term until a season is imminent given that his wife is due to give birth in less than a month.

“We’re prepared to move down to Washington this weekend, but if things don’t work out we might stay back in Chicago,” Brouwer said. “We have our house there, we have our doctors there. The baby coming is pretty much the determining factor of our plans right now. If there’s a season we will be in Washington right away but if there isn’t I think we’re going to stick around in Chicago at least until we hear otherwise.”

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