September 15, 2019

Mike Green won’t be back and that’s a good thing for him and the Caps

Mike Green (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The pending list of free agents for the Washington Capitals includes several big names, but while there is little question that players like Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov will be re-signed, the future remains much more cloudy for defenseman Mike Green.

Green was selected 29th overall by the Caps in the 2004 draft and has spent his entire NHL career with the organization. He will turn 30 in October so while his 30-plus goal seasons are likely behind him, he still has plenty of good years left in his career.

Yet, the final year of Green’s contract has now come and gone with no extension in place. While there remains time between now and the start of free agency for the team to work out a deal, the chances of that happening seem unlikely.

But why?

Green is one of the “young guns” in which this team was built around. He is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist and finished the season fifth on the Caps in scoring with 45 points. That also puts him at 15th among NHL defensemen, tied with other notable players Dustin Byfuglien, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith.

The Calgary native also finished the season with a goals-for percentage of 57.5, the third highest on the team among players who played 20 games or more. He scored 0.51 goals per 60 minutes at even strength, the second-highest rate of his career and higher even than his 31-goal season in 2008-09.

Overall it was a good season for Green, but he played on the third defensive pairing and, given that the top four of Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen don’t seem to be going anywhere for a while, that is where Green will stay should he return.

Therein lies the problem.

Though Green played as a third-pair defenseman, he sure wasn’t paid like one. He just finished out the last year of a three-year contract that paid him $18.25 million and carried a cap hit of just over $6 million. That was the third-highest cap hit on the team and the highest among Caps defenseman. It is also the highest among all pending free agents.

The Caps cannot afford to pay a third-pair player top-pair money and they will not offer him nearly that much. Staying in Washington would mean a significant pay cut for Green — somewhere in the the $3 million range.

Just because Green is on the third pair in Washington doesn’t mean he would be on every other team. Someone is going to offer him more playing time and a lot more money in free agency. Guaranteed. That will be very hard for him to pass up.

At 29 years old, Green will only get one, maybe two more big contracts in his career depending on the term of those contracts. It will be hard for him to say yes to taking that much less just to stay in Washington especially when there are going to be teams willing to pay a heck of a lot more for his services.

The real question for the Caps, however, is whether they should even want Green back.

While all the focus and blame for the team’s postseason struggles seems to be directed squarely at Alex Ovechkin, Green has a nasty habit of falling apart when the stakes are at their highest.

In the nine Game 7s the Caps have played in since 2008 Green has only one point, an assist back in 2009. Granted he is a defenseman, but he is an integral part of the team’s power play and a major offensive contributor. One point just doesn’t cut it and neither do the five penalties he has taken.

In the team’s most recent Game 7 loss Green took two two minor penalties, one of which came just 39 seconds after the first one expired. The New York Rangers scored the game-tying goal during the second power play.

In the infamous Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, Green again took two penalties and again it cost the Caps. Not only did Montreal score on Green’s first penalty, but a horrible defensive play by Green also led to Dominic Moore’s series-winning goal.

If your reaction to the Caps’ recent playoff loss is that the team should blow up the roster, that’s not going to happen — Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom aren’t going anywhere. Getting rid of a player like Green, however — a core player who has been a detriment in Game 7s and is overpaid for the role he plays on the team — is a good consolation.

Given what Green would be giving up to stay in Washington, both sides would be better off if he moves on.

About J.J. Regan

J.J. Regan is a contributor to District Sports Page. He also is a college football and NHL blogger for CSNwashington.com and CSNbaltimore.com and has a master's degree in interactive journalism from American University. Regan follows all DC sports but focuses mainly on the the Caps and college football. You can view his online portfolio at regansports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

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  1. […] Mike Green likely won’t return to the Washington Capitals. That could be good for both sides. (District Sports Page) […]

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