Before negotiating his two-year contract extension with the Capitals, center Mathieu Perreault made it known he wanted more ice time than he received in his first full NHL season.
It was a reasonable request when you consider no Capitals forward who played in 50 or more games averaged less ice time than Perreaults 12:01 a night.
Once he had that assurance, Perreault and his agent went to work on negotiating a two-year, one-way deal worth slightly more than 2 million.
They told me I was part of their elite forwards on the team and they see me on the top lines and they think I can do good things for them, Perreault, 24, said after signing the first one-way contract of his career. Hopefully, with a new coach Adam Oates coming in Ill get more ice time than last year.
Say this for Perreault: He did more with less than any other Capital last season, leading the team in shooting percentage 26.7 while scoring 16 goals in 64 games. Over the course of an 82-game season, that averages out to 21 goals.
Perreault played his way onto the Capitals roster by leading the team in preseason scoring and was used in a variety of ways by both Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter. He filled in for Nicklas Backstrom on the top line and on the power play, chipping in a pair of goals on the man-advantage.
He also won 50.8 percent of his faceoffs. But when the playoffs rolled around, Hunter used him in just four of the Capitals 14 games, leaving Perreault wondering about his future in Washington.
That future became even more clouded when the Caps acquired center Mike Ribeiro at the NHL draft last month. With Backstrom, Ribeiro, Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks, the Capitals are overloaded with centers and that could force Perreault to play on the wing, assuming the Caps dont move one of their centers to acquire a right wing like Anaheims Bobby Ryan.
I told them last year if they put me at wing I can do that, Perreault said. I have enough speed to play on the wing. If it means more ice time I would do it.
A sixth-round draft pick of the Capitals in 2006 177th overall, Perreault split the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons between AHL Hershey and the Caps. He said the biggest lesson he learned last year was the importance of being consistent.
My first few years I would play really good a few games and then I wouldnt be as good for 10 or 15 games, Perreault said. Last year I did a good job of being good all year long. When Nicky got his concussion I got a little more ice and I feel I stepped in and did a good job. I felt I could be good every night and every day.
A native of Drummondville, Quebec, Perreault was the only French-speaking player on the Caps last season and he said hes looking forward to playing with Ribeiro, who is from Montreal.
Im excited, he said. Hes a good player and hes going to fit real well in the system in Washington. I wont be the only French guy next year. It will be nice to talk French with him and Im sure Ill have a few things to learn from him.