The Detroit Red Wings have landed the highly coveted Mike Green to bolster the offense from their defense.
The biggest free agent fish of 2015 has been caught. Defenseman Mike Green is a Detroit Red Wing. He has signed for three years and $18 million, good for a salary cap hit of $6 million.
Green was as coveted as any unrestricted free agent league-wide. He is nowhere near finished as an effective NHL defenseman. Gone are his halcyon days of 30-goal, 70-point seasons, but he remains a well-above-average point producer, having racked up 45 in 72 games this season with Washington. He’s still just 29 and capable of playing 20-plus minutes a night.
Green, however, remains an adventure defensively. He wound up fifth on the Capitals’ depth chart at defense last season. His puck-possession numbers improved under coach Barry Trotz but, as the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg notes, that was largely because Green was playing on the third pair and facing weaker competition. And it’s alarming that his 72 games in 2014-15 marked his highest total since 2009-10.
Still, it’s no surprise Green got paid big bucks. He’s a right-shot who can move the puck. As I noted in a story last week, right-handers comprised only 38.9 percent of active NHL blueliners this season. It’s a premium position, and that’s why 63.6 of the D-men making $6 million or more shoot from the right side.
The three-year term makes the money much more acceptable for Detroit, which has lacked a high-end offensive defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski retired, unless you count the Marek Zidlicky rental this past spring. The natural assumption is that Green bolsters Detroit’s power play, but the Wings already had the league’s No. 2 unit in that regard in 2014-15. More than that, Green will add offense to the ‘D’ corps in all situations. Kronwall was the lone D-man to tally more than five goals for the Wings last season, though Zidlicky might have hit that number in a full year with the team.
Green’s health woes may keep him from living up to the $6-million cap hit, but the risk isn’t astronomical with the relatively short term.