Jay Beagle makes no bones about it: he wants to stay in Washington.
He loves his teammates. He loves his coaches. And he’s loyal to the Capitals for giving him the opportunity to live his dream as a professional hockey player.
But is that enough to keep him in D.C.?
On Monday, Caps general manager Brian MacLellan said that of his six unrestricted free agents – Mike Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Curtis Glencross, Tim Gleason and Beagle -- he thought Beagle would be “an easier one to sign.” He also said the Caps want to sign Beagle “at a good number as a fourth-line player.”
That’s where things get a little tricky.
Beagle ended the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs as the Caps’ third-line center. He also saw time as a third-line right wing and even spent some time in the regular season on the top line.
Beagle made $900,000 this season and was one of the Caps’ most sought-after players prior to the NHL trade deadline because of his ability to kill penalties, win faceoffs and play the right way.
“Beags is amazing,” said Caps defenseman Karl Alzner, who roomed with Beagle when both were rookies in 2008. “You can’t help but love the guy. Barry [Trotz] has said it before. He’s got a special place for him. He’s just a guy that works so hard and gets a little bit more out of everybody.
“Hopefully, he gets exactly what he deserves and hopefully, it’s with us. The guy’s an amazing player to have on your team. Guys hate to play against him and I think that’s hilarious. I’d love to have him frustrating guys on other teams with us a little longer.”
What would it cost the Capitals? If you look at comparables, former Caps center/winger Matt Hendricks, another heart-and-soul penalty killer, tested free agency two summers ago and landed a four-year, $7.4 million contract with an annual cap hit of $1.85 million.
Beagle is coming off a regular season in which he set career highs in goals , assists , plus-minus [plus-6], shots  and ice time [12:48]. In 14 playoff games he scored a game-winning goal and had four assists while logging 15:48 in ice time.
Those are numbers worthy of a raise, but how much of one?
“I’ve never been in this situation, so it’s definitely tough,” Beagle said. “I’m obviously very blessed to be able to play this game and to be in such a great spot with a great organization that has given me a chance to live my dream. It’s a situation I’ve never been in. I’ll just try to make the best decision I can for my family and for me. It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure.”
What’s so tough? The Caps likely will value Beagle as a fourth-line forward, while his agent, Wade Arnott, likely will produce numbers that suggest he’s a versatile and valuable third-liner.
Beagle said two key factors will play into his decision: the closeness of the Capitals and his relationship with Trotz.
“We’ve got such a great group of guys and a great group that’s unrestricted,” Beagle said. “I’d hate to be in management’s shoes. It’s such a great group of guys and if you look at the guys that are unrestricted, you hate to see any of them go. That’s the nature of the business and that’s what happens. It’s a tough situation.
“I’ve been in this organization [since 2008] but I’ve also had four different coaches so I know how special it is when you get a coach that likes your style of play and gives you opportunity to succeed and that’s what Trotz has done for me and I don’t take that lightly at all. It doesn’t come that often, so that also weighs into my decision making.”
If Beagle has played his final game with the Capitals, he’s disappointed with the way his career in Washington ended.
“This was a special group,” he said. “It was a year where a lot of us thought we had a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Just with the adversity we went through with the start that wasn’t as good as we wanted and the way our team grew and bought into the system.
“Just the way we were playing it was a year where I’m still shocked that we’re out. It’s such a fun group to be a part of and a great year. It was a lot of fun and it’s just disappointing to end. It motivates you and makes you a better player. You don’t want this feeling. You use it as fuel.”
Beagle said he hopes it’s fuel he can use in a Capitals uniform next season. Negotiations on a new contract could begin as early as this week.
“I would love to stay here,” he said. “It’s up to management. They have a lot of decisions to make. I’d be honored to [re-sign]. At the end of the day I will talk to my agent. That’s why I have him. He’s always been great for me. I definitely want to hear what he has to say and see what happens. I obviously love it here and I’m not going to say otherwise.
“The ultimate goal is to keep playing and to keep living out my dream.”