Jay Beagle had been driving his motor home through Rocky Mountains, disconnected from the world around him, when his cell phone suddenly began to chime. He had been on the outskirts of civilization for the better part of the past week, trekking up and down the western edge of Alberta with his wife and 1-year-old son, until the beeping of a handful of missed calls and messages drew him back to reality.
Beagle’s agent, Wade Arnott, had been trying to reach him, and Beagle surmised only that it had to be good news. Once he checked those messages, he learned that it was — that the Washington Capitals had extended a contract offer that was to Beagle’s liking. Thus, he pulled the motor home into the town of Canmore, found a kiosk with Internet service and a fax machine, reviewed and signed the contract and shipped it off, cementing a return to the only organization he has ever known.
“I was obviously thrilled,” Beagle said Monday afternoon, speaking on a conference call from the mountains hours after the Capitals announced he signed a three-year, $5.25 million contract. “I didn’t really hide it that I wanted to come back.”
The Capitals, too, were eager to have Beagle back, especially after the 29-year-old set career highs last season with 10 goals and 10 assists and won 63.8 percent of his faceoffs in the playoffs, the highest mark of any player. A natural center, the versatile Beagle filled multiple roles for Washington, fitting in at one point at midseason as the top-line right wing.
General manager Brian MacLellan had basically lumped Beagle in with the Capitals’ restricted free agents once the season ended, understanding that the mutual interest should simplify negotiations.
That’s also likely why Beagle planned his jaunt for this time of the summer, even though the free-agent signing period is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. To him, it was just a matter of time before a deal was reached.
“I had kind of left it in my agent’s hands and told him [to handle it],” Beagle said. “When we had talked after everything was kind of said and done, he said, ‘So, if we do end up going to free agency, where’s your No. 1 place? Where do you want to go?’ I said Washington. It was never really out of my mind that I wasn’t going to be able to come back.”
Beagle made $900,000 this past season, but will nearly double that this year, earning a $300,000 bonus on top of a $1.45 million base salary. He’ll make $1.75 million in each of the following two seasons; Beagle said that his only charge to Arnott was to negotiate the longest deal possible.
The security was important. Beagle turned professional after two years at Alaska-Anchorage and toiled in the minor leagues for four seasons before splitting time between the Capitals and the Hershey Bears in 2010-11. He hasn’t returned to the minors since.
“We are pleased to re-sign Jay to a new three-year contract,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Jay is a hard-working player who plays multiple positions and is an excellent face-off man and penalty killer. Jay has improved steadily since joining our organization and has always brought his game to a different level in the playoffs.”
MacLellan has said that he projects Beagle to fit in as the Capitals’ fourth-line center, but Beagle feels differently. His goal, he said, is to establish himself as the team’s third-line center, filling a gritty role anchoring the checking line, but also believes it’s natural to want to develop into a more complete player.
With the new contract, he believes he can.
“It’s a pretty good feeling when you are able to come back to the spot that you love to play and want to be at,” Beagle said. “Obviously, I was so excited when I got that call, finally, from Wade that he had reached a deal.”