It meant something that the Washington Capitals were in trouble without Jay Beagle for the final two games of their playoff series against the New York Rangers. The 26-year-old forward blossomed into a third-line center and penalty-killing, shutdown, defensive and shot-blocking specialist under Dale Hunter.
His new contract, three years for $2.7 million, fits that increased role. Beagle gets security and the first totally one-way deal of his professional career, and the Caps know what they’re getting from their most improved player.
“Obviously I set out this year to establish myself as a role player that can play in tight situations and be a guy that the coach can count on to throw out in defensive situations, especially penalty-kill, that’s a huge part of my game,” Beagle said. “It was obviously a tough start to the year. The finish was what I was looking to do all season. I’m hoping just to build on that and keep it going on in the next season here and just to continue to get better as a player and help my team.”
Beagle was the prototypical Hunter player, always praised for his tireless work ethic. His sharpened game, especially in the faceoff circle, allowed him to step up from fourth-liner.
The challenge beginning in training camp is gaining new coach Adam Oates‘ trust as he did Hunter’s. They’ve already talked on the phone and started developing a rapport.
“He really seems like he knows the game really well and watches a lot of video already. Just from talking to him, you sense the knowledge that he has on the game. I’m excited and looking forward to the season,” Beagle said. “He already mentioned a few little things that I can work on and be working on in the summer because he’s been watching video and he has already picked out little things that you can improve on. I think that’s unbelievable to hear that from him. It seems like he cares about the development and cares about you as a player to try to get you the best you can be.”