For Jay Beagle, its never been about the money. Its about the opportunity to be an integral part of an NHL team.
So when the Capitals offered the 26-year-old center a two-year contract following the 2011-12 season, Beagle asked for three.
I told my agent Id love to play here and theres no other place Id rather be, Beagle said. I wanted to sign a longer deal and establish myself.
On Thursday Beagle agreed to a three-year, 2.7 million contract believed to be worth 700,000 next season and 1 million in each of the following two years.
The contract is the first one-way contract of Beagles career, meaning he will be paid the full 2.7 million whether he plays in the NHL or AHL. But its also significant because of what Beagle had to go through to get it.
On Oct. 13 Beagle was knocked out in a fight with former Penguins tough guy Arron Asham and missed the next three months with concussion symptoms. It wasnt until the end of February that then-head coach Dale Hunter began using Beagle as a penalty killer and shut-down center.
It was the worst time of my life, I think, Beagle said of his three months on the sidelines. It was a time where mentally I really had to battle a lot of things.
Beagle said he was in the best shape of his career before last season but lost most of his muscle mass during his time on the injured list because he was unable to work out.
It was a terrible time and I wouldnt wish it upon my enemies, he said. Looking back, I think it has made me stronger, to realize what it takes to come back from an injury thats pretty severe.
Beagles season was ended in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals when he blocked a shot in the second period of the Caps crushing overtime loss to the Rangers. He tried suiting up for Game 6 but could not squeeze his foot into a skate.
It was getting a lot worse, he said.
Two days later, on May 11, he underwent surgery to have stabilizing pins placed in his foot. He was on crutches for one week and is now able to place full weight on it. Beagle said hes hoping to start lower body workouts soon and begin skating again in a week or two.
I didnt know how long it would take, but it is on schedule, he said.
Beagle said he wants new coach Adam Oates to count on him as a penalty killer and third-line checker who can shut down opponents top lines. In his first phone conversation with Oates, Beagle said his new coach had already broken down film and offered him a few ways he can improve his game.
He seems like a great guy and an easy guy to talk to, very personable, Beagle said. He seems like he knows the game very well. He cares about your development and wants to make me the best I can be.