After declining the Capitals’ one year, $5 million qualifying offer yesterday, restricted free agent Mike Green agreed to a three-year, $18.25 extension early Monday which will keep the two-time Norris trophy nominee in Washington through the 2014-15 season.
Despite only playing in a combined 81 games over the past two seasons and seeing his role with the team diminish, General Manager George McPhee thought enough of Green to give him a $1 million pay raise – or approximately 294 Vespas – to buy out the first two years of his free agency. The 26-year-old defenseman will earn $6 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and $6.25 in 2014-15 for an annual cap hit of $6.083 million.
“Mike is one of the best young defensemen in the National Hockey League and is just entering his prime,” McPhee said in an emailed statement. “He will continue to be a key part of our team moving forward.”
While a defenseman’s prime is later than that of a forward, Green’s best offensive days appear to be behind him. Since 2008-09, when Green became the eighth defenseman in NHL history to notch 30-plus goals, the Calgary, Alberta, native has watched his production decline each year. Even when healthy during this past year’s playoffs, Green had few memorable moments and tallied only 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in 14 games.
Early in his career, Green’s offensive firepower was compared favorably to that of Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey. While Coffey had one of his best seasons at age 27, putting up 30 goals and 83 points during the 1988-89 season, even he saw his numbers decrease every season after that.
Green can ascribe much of his decline to the ankle, groin, and head injuries that have cost him big chunks of his last few seasons. Green played just 49 games in 10-11 and only 32 this past season.
Heading into next season, Green’s new deal will make him the 11th highest paid defenseman in the league. Yes, the Capitals will be paying him as much money as Zdeno Chara ($6 mil.) and more than the reigning Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson ($5 mil.).
The contract is a gamble. McPhee is betting that Green can play a nearly full schedule like his formerly healthy self. If that happens, this will be a windfall. And with a young nucleus of John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Dmitry Orlov on the Caps back line, McPhee may have just bought his team enough time to develop their young talent and reap the benefits.
Plus we get to see Ovi and Greener interact on- and off-ice for another three years.