October 21, 2014

What to do with Mike Green

The Washington Capitals overhauled their defensive core this offseason and many are wondering where that leaves Mike Green. With the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, is there still room for the former Norris Trophy candidate?

With trade rumors flying, the team was quick to declare that Green was still a part of the Caps’ future plans. The Caps would not be the first team to change their minds on a player, however, so let’s explore whether Green should be on the trading block.

Defense was clearly the team’s biggest weakness last season and GM Brian MacLellan attempted to shore up the blue line by signing Niskanen and Orpik. Addressing the defense in free agency, however, does not come cheap.

According to capgeek.com, Niskanen’s cap hit for the upcoming season will be $5.75 million and Orpik’s will be $5.5 million. That makes them the second and third highest paid defensemen on the roster for next season.

Who are they behind? Green, who will count just over $6 million towards the salary cap.

This is a problem for two reasons. First, Green may well be on the team’s third defensive pairing next season and second, Green’s production has not come close to justifying that salary in recent years.

With the team’s free agent additions, Green could easily slip to the third pairing. It is hard to see Karl Alzner, John Carlson or Niskanen being relegated to the fifth or sixth defenseman. The choice for that fourth spot will come down to Green, Orpik or Dmitry Orlov. Having a player like Green on the third pairing is a good position to be in, but it is also hard to reconcile with a $6 million cap hit.

Green had two standout seasons from 2008-2010, but his production has not been anywhere near those levels since. In the 2009-10 season, he recorded 76 points. His best season since was in 2013-14 in which he managed 38 points, exactly half of his best total. In fact, Green has only 95 points in the four seasons since his career year combined.

The main reason for this is durability. Green has not managed to play in more than 70 games since 2010. Opponents know his health has been an issue and play very physically against him in an attempt to disrupt his game. As low as that sound, it also seems to be working; he has not looked like the same dynamic playmaker.

The Caps currently have eight NHL defensemen on their roster not including young talents like Connor Carrick and Nate Schmidt. That’s one too many.

So should the Caps trade Green? Yes, I believe they should, but they don’t have to.

As the Caps are currently under the salary cap, they technically don’t need to trade anyone. Plus it is not an issue of planning for the future as Green is on the final year of his contract.

Green’s a very interesting player in that while he may not pass the eye test, he still is a very good player according to the advanced stats. Far too often he looks clueless defensively or commits unbelievable foolish penalties. And yet, Green was second on the team last season in relative Corsi. The team was better, or at least controlled the puck more, when Green was on the ice.

Yes, the Caps have one too many defensemen, but he is still a better option than either John Erskine or Jack Hillen. Keeping Green allows the team to possibly shop Erskine’s ridiculously high (nearly $2 million) salary.

Other teams are aware of Green’s durability concerns and the fact that the Caps are now crowded on the blue line. Because of that, they will try to buy low.

While I believe the Caps should trade Green, there is absolutely no reason to trade him for nothing. He still has value and is incredibly skilled. It’s the offseason so no one is desperate enough to offer what Green is actually worth. Unless someone offers the Caps an unbelievable offer, the time to really explore selling him is at the trade deadline when teams will be more desperate for a player like him.

Until then, he’s not going anywhere and that’s OK. If the worst case scenario for the Caps is that they have to carry the NHL’s best third-pair defensemen, that’s a pretty good position to be in.
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JJ Regan is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He is an aspiring sports journalist currently earning his master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and has his own website at regansports.com. He is also a digital freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Washington and Baltimore. JJ follows all D.C. sports but specializes in the Capitals. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

About J.J. Regan

JJ Regan is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He is an aspiring sports journalist currently earning his master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and has his own website at regansports.com. He is also a digital freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Washington and Baltimore. JJ follows all D.C. sports but specializes in the Capitals. You can follow JJ on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

Comments

  1. I could see trading Green for Thornton or maybe Datsyuk, to give the Caps three solid offensive lines of forwards. Otherwise, durability issues have been brought about by repeated, unnecessary attempts to impose John Erskine’s role on an offensive player. If Green plays eighteen minutes a night with mostly offensive zone starts against weak competition, he can still be a fifty point defenseman, and he can keep the Caps’ power play elite, without being a liability when he’s underwhelming at cross-checking opposing power forwards out of his own crease. If he plays with Orpik, the duo is versatile enough to play both ends for twenty minutes without Green getting crushed. The Caps used to carry eight defensemen or more when a rookie named Ken Klee used to skate up on the wing. Didn’t seem to hurt his development. Perhaps Orlov could use a few minutes at wing to fine-tune his scoring touch. Perhaps Hillen can provide veteran leadership to get the Bears back into the postseason. The salary cap is managed for this year. How it looks next year is a function of deadline deals and how much the limit goes up. Green could well return at a lower cap hit on a long-term deal, freeing up space for forward acquisitions. Whether he’ll want to is going to depend in part on what opportunities to succeed he gets from Trotz, and in part on whether bloggers run him out of town before Crosby’s old point-men have tried on their red jerseys.

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