The Capitals have two prominent unrestricted free agents heading into this offseason, and both said Wednesday they would like to return to Washington next season.
Forwards Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks spoke separately with reporters when the Capitals held their annual breakdown day at the team’s practice facility after Monday’s Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers, but both veterans are hoping to take advantage of what could be their final chance to earn a lucrative NHL contract.
Ribeiro might be one of the more sought-after free agents this offseason given his performance this year (13 goals, 36 assists) and the dearth of quality centers on the market.
The 33-year-old winger had discussions with the Capitals before this year’s trading deadline and was reportedly offered a three-year deal worth $14 million contract at that time. Ribeiro said negotiations haven’t changed since then, and reiterated the deal “has to be four or five years.” He earned $5 million this past season.
“I have a family and have to make the right decision for them, and for the team, too. If I stay here, I want to have a chance to win,” said Ribeiro, who noted the length of this contract is more important than the average salary. “You can’t just re-sign me and then have the same kind of team. You want to improve your team. …
“That’s why it’s important to talk to them and know what they’re thinking and want to do, and then from there fit me into that.”
Ribeiro noted that if negotiations don’t progress with the Capitals, he’s willing to test out the waters once free agency begins on July 5. Hendricks hopes he has a contract with Washington before that point, even though other role players such as Eric Fehr and Aaron Volpatti have already signed new multi-year deals in recent weeks.
Hendricks, 31, said Wednesday he has been negotiating with Washington throughout his third season in the organization and hopes to come back since his family has adopted the area as its home. He had a salary of $825,000 in 2012-13 and could be due a raise after establishing himself as a bona fide NHL player (and fan favorite) during his tenure in Washington.
Hendricks had five goals and three assists this past season. In 2010-11, his first year with the Capitals, he recorded a career-high nine goals and 16 assists.
“You want to get what you feel you deserve and what you feel is right, and that’s what happens in the negotiating process,” Hendricks said.