TOP-10 UFA COUNTDOWN #2—MIKE GREEN

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Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

The free-agent pool for 2015 lacks a complete defenseman but does offer a substantial offensive player in Mike Green. The Washington Capitals blue liner has majestic career stats that tower over most of the free agents available and he is one of the 10 best offensive producers from the 2004 entry draft. He turns 30 in October, is close to 600 NHL games in his career, and posted 45 points in 2014-15 for the Caps. What is Mike Green’s actual value, and how far is that number from what he’ll get? The mind boggles.

Green’s timing is very good entering free agency, his boxcar numbers (72GP, 10-35-45) were the best since the 2009-10 season. He’s also a very famous player, so his arrival in free agency is notable because Washington hasn’t signed a big piece of their history. How big? A good way to look at Green in franchise perspective is his ranking among Capitals defensemen all-time in the points category:

  1. Calle Johansson 983GP, 113-361-474
  2. Scott Stevens 601GP, 98-331-429
  3. Kevin Hatcher 685GP, 149-277-426
  4. Sergei Gonchar 654GP, 144-272-416
  5. Mike Green 575GP, 113-247-360

That’s some very nice company and if we factor in changes in offensive levels over these many years, Green’s overall offensive value has been impressive since his arrival. The Washington Capitals may be allowing Green to test free agency, but his Washington years were extremely productive. 

TRACK RECORD

Green’s usage has changed over the last few seasons, due to coaching changes and deployment. Let’s start with time-on-ice, and a total last year that was his lowest since age 21:

  • 2013-14: 22:43 per game. That ranked No. 2 among Washington defenders, behind only John Carlson. Green again had 2:45 a night PP, trailing Carlson in the category as well.
  • 2014-15: 19:06 per game. That ranks No.5 among Washington
    defenders, behind Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Karl
    Alzner. The only discipline Green ranked inside Washington’s top 4D:
    Power play, where he was No. 1 at 2:45 per night. By usage, he was third
    pairing at Evens.

The big difference year over year? In 2013-14, Green led the team in even-strength TOI, falling to third pairing under button down coach Barry Trotz. This isn’t to imply Green isn’t a useful player—he clearly is—but the veteran Trotz found a different way to use him and that may be a reason we’re seeing Green heading to free agency. Adam Oates ran Green heavily in 2013-14—Trotz had Matt Niskanen for cover and used him effectively.

Let’s have a look at Green in his Adam Oates season (2013-14) and then we’ll look at him last year with Trotz:

VOLLMAN USAGE CHART, 2013-14

green vollman 1314

Rob Vollman’s Usage Charts are here. Adam Oates deployed Green in a ‘two-way’ role, giving the veteran a zone-start push and keeping him away from the very toughest moments of the game (Alzner—Carlson). Green did well in this situation, posting a possession number above 50% (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com) and scoring 5-16-21 at 5×5.

VOLLMAN USAGE CHART, 2014-15

green trotz 14-15

As you can see, Trotz was even more aggressive, stretching out the zone-start push to ultimate and pushing Green even farther from the tough minutes of the game. Green’s production: Even better than the previous season. His possession number jumped to over 52% and he posted 9-15-24 at 5×5 (again via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com).

A big selling point for Green as an NHL player is his production on the power play. Here are five prominent free-agent defensemen and their numbers in various categories—sorted by 5×4 points-per-60:

green chart

Green is a very effective power-play defenseman and that’s one of the main reasons he’s going to get paid. Green consistently produces PP points, as reflected by the last three seasons:

  • 2012-13: 35GP, 4-10-14
  • 2013-14: 70GP, 3-12-15
  • 2014-15: 72GP, 1-16-17

Green helps the power play—not like he did in 2009-10 when he posted 35 power-play points—and that has value in today’s NHL. 

FUTURE PERFORMANCE

Here we arrive at the crux of the issue for a team pondering Mike Green as an option. There’s a lot of miles on the player and he’s entering a period where erosion typically sets in. He’ll be 30 in October and has played 575 games over 10 seasons, along with 71 more in the playoffs. Add to that his workload (well over 20 minutes a night for most of his career) and we’re looking at a defenseman with (probably) more productive miles behind him than in front—but an NHL team is going to future pay for his past record (more on that later).

I would suggest most fans like Mike Green a lot. He’s a tough defender, will hit and take a hit, has impressive boxcar numbers and even 10 years in the man can skate pretty well. He’s famous, for all kinds of things, including scoring 31 goals in a single season—a monster number in the modern game. 

Five years ago (2010-11 season) the NHL employed 16 defensemen who were 30 years old (born 1980). Here are those defensemen, the NHL GP totals since the end of 2010-11 and their TOI/game from 2014-15 (if applicable):

  1. Brooks Orpik 269 games (21:48)
  2. Francois Beauchemin 264 games (22:45)
  3. Brad Stuart 255 games (20:21)
  4. Robyn Regehr 253 games (20:20)
  5. Bryan Allen 202 games (15:43)
  6. Jordan Leopold 188 games (14:55)
  7. Douglas Murray 156 games
  8. Greg Zanon 100 games
  9. John Erskine 95 games
  10. Steve Montador 52 games
  11. Mike Commodore 30 games
  12. Jim Vandermeer 25 games
  13. Doug Janik 9 games
  14. Matt Walker 4 games
  15. Garrett Stafford 0
  16. Andrew Hutchinson 0

The maximum number of games played for this four-year period (294) means Orpik played 91% of his team’s games. Green played 209 games during this period—71% of the overall total—and had significant injuries, including groin issues in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

There were times during this five-year look where things looked bleak in terms of health, but recent seasons have seen improvement. Green’s injury history at this age suggests a team should factor in significant time on IR for the length of what is likely to be a long deal. 

CONTRACT OUTLOOK

Mike Green is going to get paid, the only question is how much. Christian Ehrhoff signed for $4 million last season but most everyone agreed that was a crazy value for Pittsburgh and the Ehrhoff had left money on the table. Washington signed Matt Niskanen after he scored 46 points in 2013-14 and gave him a deal worth $5.75M a season—and he had less of a track record than Green.

I believe in the case of Mike Green it comes down to a combination of fame,  established performance and reputation. He is absolute gold for NHL organizations trying to send a message to fans or change a downward conversation. Often we talk about value but I don’t think the Mike Green contract to come will be about value—in fact, I’m calling it now, the contract signed will be a significant overpay.

How much? ? Unless Mike Green pulls a Christian Ehrhoff, we’d be well advised to take that $5.75M Niskanen deal and use it as a guide. I suspect he’ll get more if two teams have targeted him in free agency. It will be one of the biggest stories of the summer and that’s partly what an NHL team will no doubt be paying for when they get him.

    • Shoestring

      While I like this player and what he would bring to the Oilers, I believe there is significant danger lurking here.

      That deadly combination of age and mileage could lead to major disappointment if the Oilers sign him to a contract for term and dollars.

      Would still like to see C trade for Spurgeon.

    • Shoestring

      I’d be reluctant to give contracts longer then 2-3 years especially in Free Agency. You know they’re going to be over paid, and oilers won’t bee able to take that soon enough, especially if Nurse, McD, Rienhart, Yak, Drai all pan out. I’d love green on the roster, much rather have him at 5.75-6 over Nikitin’s 4.5.

    • NJ

      After taking a quick look at 2016 UFA, I would suggest waiting until then for ANY team looking for a dman. Byfuglien, Giordano, Seabrook are among the defensemen available and forwards Hossa, Lucic, Stamkos.

      Likely the nest crop of UFA’s seen in a long time. Chicago will still have cap issues so one of Hossa or Seabrook will probably shake loose, Stamkos has accomplished all he needs to in Tampa and who knows if Lucic is happy going to LA.

      Lots available and any team across the nation network would be happy to employ almost any one of those players!

      That’s not to say the Oil don’t need a #1,2 guy NOW, but if we wait a year we lose NN cap and contract and there is simply more dollars available go sign a big name long term. We also likely know if Justin Shultz has continued trending down or if good coaching will make the difference.

      Mike Green isn’t the guy the Oil need.

      • supra steve

        Hossa’s deal doesn’t expire till 2021.

        Looking at the list of POSSIBLE UFA’s for next summer is a fools errand. Sure, in theory Stamkos, Giordano, etc. will be there; but the reality is that most of these players will sign huge extensions with their current clubs over the next several days to months and will not be available till those deals are done. Any GM that is salivating over next year’s UFA crop should be fired.

      • supra steve

        Sorry guys Gio will not be available. Why trade away possibly the best defence mentor in the league. His play and his mentoring will be priceless to the young guys coming up through the flames system.

        Go flames go!

        Man it’s a great time to be a flames fan:)

      • radicator

        Absolutely. 3 year deal for Mike Green. $6.5 mil. (Can the Oilers make room for that?)
        He’d also fit in really well with the Oiler’s locker room, I’d bet.

        • RedMan

          I agree dude but I don’t think it will take 6.5 mil…players are willing to take a bit less and go where they want to go play and I believe that players want to come play in Oil country now so what’s a few hundred thou when they’re all millionaires anyway but it’s all in the player. GO OIL!!

    • Double Dees

      If the oilers were serious about Green and if he was their number one option, I would’ve believed they should’ve traded for his rights somehow. I don’t believ he’s PC number one dman target.

      The main hurdle I see is with Justin Schultz. They are essentially two of the same, albeit yes I may take green over JS today, but I wouldn’t for tomorrow if u get it. Why spend cap money on green when u can use elsewhere ie. Justin Williams.

      And why can’t we give the new coaching staff the benefit of the doubt to make JS a better player. That’s what good coaches do. I mean, oiler nation was so excited JS became an oiler and all I hear is negative negative negative.

      No body wants to really give up on yakapov, right? Well then why give up Schultz? He has way more potential than a 30 yr old green does at this point in their respective careers.

      Come on ppl! Let’s not give up on Schultz so soon!!! Remember he’s only 24. He’s not even close to his prime and yet we want to give up on him so easily.

      • Natejax30

        I think the biggest problem with JS is that he plays timid, scared. He is usually out of the shooting lanes when he is supposed to block shots, and relies on stick checks rather than engaging physically. If coaching, team mates or JS himself can find a bit of a mean streak, or some aggression in him, we will have a player there. the danger here is that he stays the course and remains a weak looking one dimensional player…and if that’s the case, I would spend the extra 2 million on green in a heartbeat.

      • RedMan

        Schultz’s compete level is non-existent. He never tries to get better, even when Todd Nelson was around. Yak was back in Edmonton training last offseason while everybody went home and golfed. You saw that late last season Yakupov’s work payed off and had an offensive spark with washed up line mates. Schultz may have had 31 points this year but he probably has caused twice as much. I bet Mclellan is going to help his game but Schultz needs to start doing some things on his own because there’s only so much a coach can do

      • RedMan

        It’s his contract that is way out of shape. He is not a $4 million dollar defense men.

        I think he could eventually turn out, but he should be making about 1.5-2 for his on ice performance right now, not pushing 4. Oil should sign him for 8 years or so, at the minimum they can pay him, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.5M?

        A bit risky, but I do believe eventually he could be a Mike Green type of D-man. Locking him in long term at 3.5, might make him a good value down the road, since we have grossly overpaid him up to this point.

        I think Brad Hunt has a chance of making the team down the road too, and I would not say we have room for both. Signing him, and trading him would be a great option.

      • everton fc

        I agree somewhat dude but the only way I would do that is if they get rid of Percell’s 4.5 mil this summer. Williams is gunna get paid more than that and he’s 33…I would go younger and bigger and stronger. Chris Stewart and Shawn Mattias I would target and for D-man, Green or Franson coz they shoot right

        • Robs

          Seriously?!?!? We have to listen to Oiler trolls since 5 seconds after the ping pong balls drop … and you’re telling a Calgary fan to “get OVER it”.

          Happy McDavid day! (SARCASM sign)

      • Leef O'Golin

        Anyone wonder if the Bruins would offer-sheet Hamilton now just to get some picks back? Not sure if that’s allowed but it seems like Don Sweeney’s capable of it.

        • ThatMapleLeafsFan

          ive read your post multiple times but correct me if im wrong…

          if the bruins offer sheet hamilton, 1 of 2 things wil happen. either the flames dont match and the bruins get hamilton back and give the flames draft pick compensation, or the flames match and the bruins get nothing. Nowhere would the bruins get draft picks back unless the flames traded hamilton back to them

        • Dirty30

          What’s the upside? If they get him back at a huge salary cost they are right back in cap hell. If they have to compensate with picks they may be better than what they got from Calgary in the trade. And finally, they have now pissed off a potential trade partner and will have a footnote beside any future trade with any team who will wonder if that deal with Boston comes with a follow-up offer sheet.

    • supra steve

      I would sooner trade for,Larsson or even Byfuglien. NJ needs forwards in a big way and Winnipeg has the best pool of prospects in the league. How often does a free agent work out , pretty much, never.
      You will have to overpay and probably give more term than you want. Every 30 year player wants at least a 5 year contract, which usually means the last 2 years or so the contract becomes an anchor.
      Trading is the smartest way to go, you get a player you really want instead of getting what’s left.

    • HockeyYoda

      I’ll admit I didn’t read the entire blog about Green’s stats. I faded out in the boredom of it. Plus I’m old school, which means I just watch the guy play.

      Having watched Green play specifically because I knew he was a UFA, I agree with some of the sentiment here that suggest staying away from Green. The games I watched, Green was making trouble for himself when he wasn’t even really under any real pressure. Trot’s use of him tells the story, dropping him to 5th in ice time. I think the Caps will be better without him. So just stay away.

    • supra steve

      Love to see the battle of alberta resurface…
      I think mclennen can do a reclamation project on Schultz for cheaper then green would be, get a guy who can munch minutes ( martin??) and roll them this year. ideally we wont be in our end a whole heck of a lot with all the depth we just won at forward

    • OILFANMEXICO

      Regardless who Chiarelli goes after in ufa’s, our d will be a lot better. We all know we are not a defensive style team, we are stacked offensively.Better keep your head up Flamers or Gryba might just take it off 😉

    • TK

      Based on what JB and TL have done so far, don’t be surprised that they throw millions into this years weak FA group. Why mess with their insanely absurd formula of not trying to get better, right?

    • Leef O'Golin

      Only way I see the Oil getting a top pairing dman is through trade. UFAs don’t like short term deals (why would they?) so that really hinders any UFA signing, because they need Nurse and Klef to step in in 2 years.

      Therefore, they should make a trade, and I have no problem if Ebs is part of a trade, as long as we get a solid proven top pairing dman who is still fairly young.

    • Cain

      The UFA we should be targeting out of WSH is Eric Fehr! Guy is really fast and was moved to Center Last year as their shutdown guy. He would look great with Hall and McDavid, has the speed to keep up and brings a defensive element to the line.
      Fehr-3yr/9mil

    • a lg dubl dubl

      I’d rather see Meszaros or Frason signed over Green. Pretty much the same amount of points as Green over the last few years, and should cost a bit less too.

    • Joy S. Lee

      Looking at our defence core now, it’s pretty apparent the team needs someone like Green. Yes he’s 30 and yes he will cost money, but he can skate, plays physical, and can put up points. If our top line is going to be used in the offensive zone with a shut down pair taking the hard minutes, then Green is a huge upgade on Schultz in that role, and I think a better player than guy like Franson who might be too slow.

      Also, did anyone else see PA Parentuea is on waivers today. Hasn’t lowetide kept saying we need a 2 way Pisani type? Just saying, get rid of Purcell and pick up PA.

      • Joy S. Lee

        I kind of like that possibility, since I’d take Parenteau over either Klinkhammer – who is willing to mix it up minus the skill – or Purcell – who has skills but never gets involved – all day. He brings some of both of those elements.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Maybe it’s just me, but you’re going to need a very good skating d-man for those 10-12 games where you go into 3-on-3 OT, so Green would have greater value, IMO.

      Throw Green out with Hall and McDavid and watch the fireworks.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Throw Eberle or Nuge or even Jultz out there. There’s no rule that says that a player has to be a defenceman. The most important part of 3 on 3 will be winning the faceoff and getting the first shot(s) in.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          You could just throw three forwards, or a centre and two defencemen, but two forwards and one defencemen seem to make the most sense. We will know by Christmas what works.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I’d love to see him here, but I doubt that Green is a realistic addition in Edmonton. There’s no way that he would settle for the sort of term that the Oilers would be comfortable with. By the time the team is going to be ready to really use a defenseman like him he won’t be a defenseman like him anymore.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Chris Stewart should be #1 on the Oilers list BIG JOHN SCOTT#2 and Brian MCGRATTAN #3. Imagine if we added these three SWEETHEARTS to protect our highly skilled/vulnerable SUPERTARS!!!!!WOO!!!!!’

    • everton fc

      Green’s only hope of getting signed soon is via a team looking to hit the cap floor. Arizona comes to mind. Any team looking to add this type of long-term payroll for a guy this age… Have teams not learned from one another’s past mistakes in this contractual “space”??