The Capitals took care of one of their four NHL restricted free agents on Thursday when they signed forward Mathieu Perreault to a two-year contract. The deal is worth $2.1 million, according to an NHL source.
Perreault, 24, had a career-high 16 goals last season. He spent much of the final three months of the regular season as Washington’s second-line center once Nicklas Backstrom was knocked out of the lineup Jan. 3 with a concussion. Perreault appeared in only four postseason games, however – all of them during the first-round, seven-game series against the Boston Bruins. He didn’t play after Game 4.
Perreault gets a bump from his $525,000 contract and his new salary-cap hit is $1.05 million. The team now has 11 forwards under contract. Alex Semin remains an unrestricted free agent and appears unlikely to sign with the Caps again. The team’s remaining restricted free agents are defensemen Mike Green and John Carlson and center Jay Beagle.
Perreault’s goal total was helped by his abnormally high 26.7% shooting percentage. He took just 60 shots on goal in 64 games. He also had a career-best 14 assists. His goals/60 minutes when on the ice was 3.36 – the highest total on the team. He was eighth among Washington forwards with 2.41 goals against/60 minutes when he was on the ice.
Interesting to see where he plays next season. Of the 14 forwards who played at least 30 games, Perreault saw the third-easiest competition. The hockey stats web site Behind the Net had Perreault with a -.058 quality of competition rating. Only Mike Knuble and Cody Eakin faced easier minutes. But he still did well with them and produced. Let’s not forget the year before he had seven goals and seven assists in just 35 games.
Perreault didn’t fit into what former head coach Dale Hunter was looking for in the postseason. But he was a reasonable alternative as a top-six center when Backstrom got hurt. He’s played wing on the third and fourth lines before. He’s filled in on the top line. This will be his chance to grab stable ice time under new coach Adam Oates – but it just might have to be in a similar jack-of-all-trades role. Depends on what general manager George McPhee adds, of course.
Some options: Even if Oates takes his glut of bottom-six forwards and moves Troy Brouwer to a scoring line you would still have a spot open at right wing. You could play Perreault at third-line center and move Brooks Laich up to a scoring line. That might not be a great idea if your intent is to have a true checking line. Maybe Perreault’s skill plays well with new center Mike Ribeiro or Backstrom – depending on who anchors the second line. He’s an interesting player, for sure.
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