Perreault, 25, spent his entire professional career in the Capitals organization but there were signs he might be edged out of the lineup during training camp as Coach Adam Oates experimented with first Eric Fehr and then Martin Erat at center.
“I was trying to figure out what was going on, just like everybody else seeing all the guys in the middle, and when you look back at it, they had to make room on the cap space for some of the new guys they liked,” Perreault said in a phone interview. “With me being just a little over a million on the cap I know I was the target. I’ve told them before I want to play and they didn’t want to have me be on the bench or in the stands anymore, so they felt like it was time to make a move and I respect that.”
In exchange for Perreault, the Capitals will receive a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft and AHL prospect John Mitchell from Anaheim. But what Washington truly gains from this trade is salary cap space to keep some younger prospects on the NHL roster.
The removal of Perreault’s $1.05 million salary cap hit provides room for Washington to keep both 2012 first-round pick Tom Wilson, who carries a $894,200 cap hit before bonuses, and feisty center Michael Latta. Perreault’s departure also brings the Capitals down to the NHL maximum 23-man roster well ahead of Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline.
Perreault, a sixth-round pick in 2006, had mixed emotions about the trade. The Capitals are the only franchise he’s ever known but with the abundance of forwards in training camp he could see that he likely wasn’t going to get the playing time he hoped for.
“It’s kind of a weird situation I’ve never been in. I don’t know if I should be excited going to a new place or sad to leave D.C. It’s a little bit of both,” said Perreault, who recorded 33 goals and 70 points in 159 regular season games over the past four seasons with the Capitals. “I love D.C. This is the team that gave me my first chance. I have a bunch of good friends here but it was time for me to move on. I saw during training camp when they were trying a bunch of different guys in the middle that there wasn’t much room for me.”
The Quebec native hopes his reunion with former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim will provide greater opportunity to assert himself as a playmaking center.
“I know Bruce always liked me, I always had good talks with him even though I got sent down a couple times when he was here. He would talk to me I felt like he really liked me as a player,” Perreault said. “I’m excited to see what will happen there. I’ve talked with their GM and they’re excited. I am too.”