Over the last few months there has been a lot of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing amongst Capitals faithful over the impending restricted free agent status of Washington defenseman Mike Green
. And why not? Green had a terrific season in 2007-08, leading all NHL defensemen in goals and giving Washington its first legitimate offensive threat from the blueline since Sergei Gonchar.
Take an exciting young defenseman with tremendous puck-moving and offensive skills, factor in an expiring entry level contract and throw in the very real threat of one of the other 29 teams enticing Green with a restricted free agent offer sheet after July 1, and you can understand why Caps fans would worry about Green not wearing the red, white and blue this October. Green was able to talk with other teams about possible RFA offer sheets as of last Friday under terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA.
All fears were put to rest today when the Caps announced they’ve signed Green to a four-year contract extension. In keeping with club policy, terms were not announced.
In the final season of his three-year entry level deal, the 22-year-old Green totaled 18 goals and 56 points, He was one of just four Capitals to play in all 82 regular season games for Washington in 2007-08. Green was fourth on the team in goals scored, he was second on the team and third among NHL defensemen with 234 shots on goal, and he led Washington with an average of 23:38 in ice time per game.
After totaling three goals and 15 points in 92 games during his first two NHL seasons, Green obliterated those numbers in 2007-08. A crucial cog in the 2006 Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears and a member of the 2007 Bears team that advanced to the Calder Cup finals, Green’s NHL career really began to take flight after the Caps elevated head coach Bruce Boudreau from Hershey to Washington on Nov. 22.
Through the season’s first 21 games, Green totaled three goals and four assists. He logged as much as 20 minutes of ice time only twice in those 21 games. Over the season’s final 61 games, Green had 15 goals and 34 assists. He played more than 20 minutes in each of Washington’s last 59 regular season games and all seven postseason contests.
“Over the last three years, I’ve learned so much,” said Green shortly after the conclusion of the 2007-08 season. “This year, from the start of the season to the finish has been like night and day. We were down, we had to face adversity and come back, and then fight for our lives in the playoffs. That’s not something a player goes through every year. What I’ve gained from this season – and it’s almost been like three seasons – has been incredible.”
For the next four seasons, Green will be in Washington alongside many of the same players with whom he has risen through the system.
“I think a lot of us are going to be a lot hungrier next year when it is time to come to camp,” he says. “We have a great thing here. Just the atmosphere and the whole experience has been great.”
Getting Green’s signature on the dotted line gives Washington a total of 19 players (one goaltender, eight defensemen and 10 forwards) under contract for 2008-09. The signing leaves the Caps with four more unsigned RFAs (restricted free agents) in defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and forwards Brooks Laich
, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr. Washington is also still negotiating with two UFAs (unrestricted free agents) who finished the ’07-08 season in the District, goaltender Cristobal Huet and center Sergei Fedorov.
The salary cap for NHL teams in the 2008-09 season is $56.7 million.