Since Mike Green put up back-to-back 70-point seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10, only one defenseman, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, has hit that plateau.
The Washington Capitals’ young gun on the blue line hasn’t come close, his past two years derailed by injury.
“A hundred percent, and it’ll be next year,” he said Monday.
The Caps wagered on Green recapturing that offensive brilliance by signing the restricted free agent to a three-year deal worth $18.25 million.
It’s a gamble that he can stay healthy and find the spark that was lacking even after his return from sports hernia surgery this past spring.
“I think they know what I’m capable of. It was unfortunate the last couple years that I’ve suffered from injuries,” Green said. “But I believe that I’m over them now. I think I got them all out of my system.”
The litany of injuries included shoulder, concussion, ankle and groin and caused the 26-year-old to miss 83 games the past two seasons. He managed just 11 goals and 20 assists when in the lineup.
Under coach Adam Oates, Green hopes to strike a balance between the run-and-gun style of Bruce Boudreau and the defensive style of Dale Hunter.
Half the battle is staying healthy, though that’s not something Green thinks he has to prove to anyone.
“I think that personally and for my own mental state that I get back to that and I almost prove to myself that I can do it,” he said. “It’s been unfortunate over the last two years; I’ve worked hard to want to maintain that, and I’ve ran into some injuries that have caused a little bit of a fall-back in that department. I know that I’m able to do it, and it’s just a matter of me staying healthy and going and doing it.”
In giving him a contract that counts $6.083 million against the salary cap, Washington is paying Green as an elite defenseman, in line with general manager George McPhee’s statement that he’s one of the best young players at his position.
That cap hit ranks 11th among defensemen in the NHL.
That means Green is set to earn the third-most money on the team this coming season, behind just Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and he’ll be counted on to anchor a young defense that includes John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov.
In giving him three years, the Caps are making a commitment to Green even longer than he expected.
“I was more I guess looking for two, but three made sense for us,” he said. “I want to be in Washington, and when they had offered three I had no problems staying another year because I love it there.”
It’s a calculated risk for both sides.
If Green can’t stay healthy, his absence would leave a gaping hole on the blue line, especially after Dennis Wideman’s exit.
But if he’s able to turn back into the player who jump-started some powerful offenses in recent years, the Caps will be thankful to have him locked up until he’s 29.
“Just kind of wanted to see what would happen, if they were confident in me. And they were,” Green said. “I want to make sure that I’m healthy and in [a] good state to play in Washington. It’s a very energetic team and whatnot. And I wanted to see if they wanted me there still and they did, which was very nice and very comforting.”
Comforting for both sides, because there’s long-term security in place following a couple of uncertain years and a precarious labor situation looming.
But Green was emphatic that he’ll be able to not just stay on the ice but get back to his dominant form.
“Absolutely. There’s no question about it,” he said. “I feel like I’m just getting into my prime.”