Mar 30, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Washington Capitals center Matt Hendricks (26) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. Capitals beat the Sabres 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks Interested in Matt Hendricks?

The Vancouver Canucks will be interested in forward Matt Hendricks if he hits the free agent market on July 5, according to News 1130 Sports.

Hendricks, 31, just completed his third season with the Washington Capitals. He earned $800,000 last season and will be looking for a significant pay raise after establishing himself as a versatile bottom-six forward.

“I think I’ve established myself more in this league,” Hendricks told the Washington Times. “Proved I can play throughout the lineup – special teams, penalty kill, things like that. I’m pretty good at faceoffs. I think I’m just more of an established player at this level.”

Hendricks’s agent, Michael Wulkan, says his client’s first priority is to re-sign in Washington, but knows there will be plenty of suitors on the free agent market.

“There’s always changeover from year to year, but he’s one of those guys you’re not going to replace,” Hendricks’s teammate Jason Chimera said. “It’s not an easy job to go out there and fight guys twice his size. He sticks up for guys on the team and brings energy when no one else has it.”

Hendricks will hit a big pay day whether it is with Washington or with another team as there is a great emphasis in today’s NHL on players like him. His ability to play centre and left wing, penalty kill, and fight has earned him comparisons to Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust. As a free agent last summer, Prust was able to hit the jackpot and sign a four-year contract worth $2.5 million as a season with the Canadiens.

Probably not as established as a fighter than Prust, Hendricks is a much more stronger faceoff man. He has a faceoff percentage of 56.8%, 53.6%, and 53.1% in his three seasons with the Capitals. A left-handed centre with grit and toughness would be a welcome addition to the Canucks lineup that has greatly lacked these elements the last two seasons.

The salary cap next season is dropping to $64.3 million and the Canucks have 17 players signed at over $64.4 million. Expect them to kick the tires on Hendricks, but don’t expect them to sign him or any other bigger name free agent on July 5 unless they can unload some significant salary at the draft. Hendricks will likely go for at least $2.5 million a season.

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