Mike Green only averaged 19:06 of ice time last season, down more than three minutes from his previous season.
But that reduction wasn’t really a reflection of his play. It was the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in free agency. There are only so many minutes to go around, and the Caps also had to give John Carlson and Karl Alzner their time.
Despite Green playing less, he actually saw his production increase, from 38 points in 70 games in 2013-14 to 45 points in 72 games last season. Only 15 NHL defensemen had more points than Green did. Shea Weber and Duncan Keith also had 45 points, and they played more games and received far more ice time.
But the Caps had to make a tough decision. If Green wasn’t a top-four d-man on their team, they couldn’t pay him like one. So he signed with Detroit for three years and $18 million.
Green’s departure leaves the Caps with a top four of Orpik, Carlson, Alzner and Niskanen, with a potential bottom pairing of 24-year-olds Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt. (KHL veteran Ilya Nikulin could reportedly be on his way to D.C., too.)
Green, a pending unrestricted free agent, has been quite open about his desire to remain with the Capitals.
“My heart is in Washington,” he said in March. “It always will be until something else happens. My focus is here. My focus is winning a championship here and giving that to the fans. As an organization, that’s what we want as a team. I’m a part of that until the day I die or retire.”
Then, in April, Green called this season’s version of the Caps “by far the best team we’ve had overall.”
Alas, Washington fell short again in the playoffs. (Thanks in part to an ill-advised penalty by Green.) And with the Caps already committed to four blue-liners through at least 2016-17 — Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner — unless Green is willing to provide a big discount, it remains hard to see him back next season.
Remember also that new contracts will be needed for pending restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov. And the Caps may try to re-sign UFA Joel Ward, too.
Mike Green on re-signing: "At the end of the day, it's what they want to make their team as best as it possibly can be."
The Washington Capitals announced that defenseman Nate Schmidt has been summoned from AHL Hershey in a move that might be a hint about Tim Gleason’s status for Game 7 on Wednesday.
Gleason didn’t see any ice time in the final 10:57 minutes of Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers. After the contest coach Barry Trotz described the 32-year-old defenseman as “banged up,” per the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt.
Washington acquired Gleason from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 28 in exchange for Jack Hillen and a 2015 fourth-round draft pick. He had two assists and a plus-five rating in 17 games with the Capitals to finish the season, but his ice time has dipped to just 13:28 minutes per game in the playoffs as Washington has leaned on its top-five blueliners in John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and Mike Green.
Schmidt, 23, had a goal and three assists in 39 contests with Washington during the 2014-15 regular season.
If Gleason can’t play on Wednesday, then that would mark the first change in Washington’s defense since the playoffs began.