Happiness can't be underestimated when it comes to free agency. So it came down to this for Brooks Laich(notes): Would he be happier playing for a team other than the Washington Capitals, in a city that wasn't Washington, D.C.?
The answer formally arrived on Tuesday morning:
No, he would not.
Via Mike Vogel at Dump 'N Chase, Laich has decided to forego unrestricted free agency and sign a 6-year, $27 million contract with the Capitals. From Vogel:
The deal came together late last week and was done in principle prior to the 2011 Entry Draft this past weekend. Getting it done before then was important to Laich as well. He didn't want to drag it out to July 1, or even to last weekend.
"It came down to running the risk of losing Washington, was what it was," says the 28-year-old center. "I knew unrestricted free agency was a week away, but I didn't want to run the risk of going through the draft and have Washington trade a draft pick or trade a player or something for somebody that could do my job with them thinking that I'm not planning on returning.
"My intent the whole time was to return. That was the only option. We got to a point where it got very close to the draft and I really wanted to get the deal done so I knew for sure I'd be going back to Washington. You never know could happen at the draft; they could have made trades or gone in another direction. I didn't want to lose Washington."
His cap hit of $4.5 million per season is way up from $2.066 million in his previous contract, but the Capitals had to pay market value for one of the most versatile players in the League. He scores, he takes faceoffs, he kills penalties, he fixes tires for families stranded on D.C. roadways, he's eye candy for the fans — all of it.
He's also a leader, having served as the de facto spokesman for the locker room for many years before other veteran players helped share that role. Even in that role, his demeanor last season was more intense than in previous years: Focused on overcoming the disappointment that's characterized the team in recent years.
So there's unfinished business for Laich in D.C. He's played 475 regular season games; 474 of them have been as a member of the Washington Capitals. Laich ended the July 1 dance before the music even started, committing to the Capitals when half the hockey world was fitting him for a blue sweater with a Leaf on it.
Once you find a comfort zone in this business, and your team will have you back, there are compelling reasons not to look elsewhere. So he didn't.