The Washington Times - July 16, 2011, 12:10PM

Last year at this time Matt Hendricks was a free agent. A career minor leaguer who spent parts of two seasons with the Avalanche, he got his chance in September with the Capitals on a professional tryout and then signed a real, genuine NHL contract.

Now, he’s got a full year with the Caps under his belt and has been able to enjoy some time off this summer. He’s been working out courtesy of strength coach Mark Nemish’s plans, but that’s not all.

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“But I’m not gonna lie to you,” Hendricks said. “I’ve been doing some fishing, too.”

Hendricks, who was the lone Caps player at Fan Fest on Saturday at Kettler, is now on a one-way deal that will pay him $850,000 this season and next. That has allowed the 30-year-old forward some peace of mind.

“Not as nervous, that’s for certain. Not as much anxiety,” Hendricks said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that you’re gonna have a paycheck and a contract.”

He cautioned that training camp always puts him on edge because of the competition, but Hendricks likely doesn’t have much to worry about – he’ll be on the fourth line, most likely on one of the wings with Jeff Halpern.

“He’s a leader, which is gonna help us,” Hendricks said of Halpern. “He’s very responsible defensively, and he can put points up. I think maybe our fourth line lacked that a little bit the last season. I think we could’ve had a little bit more production, and I think we’re leaning towards that for this season.”

Hendricks has spent most of his offseason back home in Minnesota but dropped in to the D.C. area for Fan Fest. He’ll be going back soon but had some parting words for members of the media.

“Go relax,” he said. “I’ll see you in September.”