Mike Green is a Detroit Red Wing. Judging by the initial response on twitter, 25% of you are pumped, 25% of you are mad, and 50% of you are both pumped AND mad. All of this is okay. I'm here to tell you it's all going to be okay. Mike Green is not our savior, but he is a good hockey player, and this is a perfectly reasonable deal.
Mike Green is instantly the most offensively capable defenseman on the roster, which directly addresses the biggest weakness on the team. We already know he's great on the PP, but Mike Green scored 1.36 points per 60 minutes of even strength hockey last year. No Red Wing defenseman was over 1.0. In fact, that 1.36 would beat every single Red Wings defenseman since Brian Rafalski's last season of bombing opposing goalies. There were likely some systemic things holding Detroit defensemen back from putting up points, but Green has regularly topped this category for Washington in his time there. Also, did you read that sentence about Rafalski? I liked that guy.
More importantly, the guy just pushes possession very well. Much was made over Green being used on Washington's 3rd pairing last season, but Washington was a 52.4% possession team with him on the ice and a 50.8% team with him on the bench. He didn't play the toughest competition night in and night out, but he still beat those that he played, and his performance suggests that maybe he deserved tougher minutes (his raw CF% was first on the blueline). Barry Trotz is a notoriously conservative coach, and there's a real argument to be made that perhaps a different coach would utilize Green better, especially when Washington was throwing out Brooks Orpik to get clobbered by tougher competition. This was Mike Green in Adam Oates last year - usage suggest he was the 2nd pairing anchor, and yet he still turned in the highest CF% on the entire team that year:
This isn't the sign of a superstar, but it definitely is the sign of a guy that would upgrade a Detroit top-4 that features possession anchor Jonathan Ericsson on the top pairing.
Finally, let's address the two major concerns that have caused Wings fans to understandably raise their eyebrows.
$6M is a lot of money
Yes it is! However, the biggest concern with UFAs is the term, and the term here is perfect. The Mike Green of the last two years is still a good player, so we have reason to believe that his age-29 year will still be good. Same for his age 30 season. By the time this deal expires, he'll be 32, which is right around the point that a lot of defensemen start to decline. A guy who plays the game Green does at age 35 at $6M is scary. At age 31? Not that bad. Detroit is basically paying 6M a year for the last 3 years of Green's prime rather than 6 years during which he is far more likely to decline badly. I'd be a lot more concerned if this was 6-8 years at 5M than I am with 3 years of $5M.
We have a logjam of defenders
Yes we also do! Fortunately, this is perfectly addressable. Here's just a sampling of the options Holland has at his disposal. Trading Kronwall or DeKeyser are off the table for fairly obvious reasons. Ericsson has a limited NTC and an iffy-at-best contract, so we'll take trading him off the table for the purposes of our discussion.
- Trade Kyle Quincey. Quincey actually represents real value on the trade market right now. He just spent a full year playing decently well on the second pairing of a playoff team, and that's something that has value. Not only that, but he's a surprisingly affordable 1 year at $4.25M. For a team with cap space to burn that maybe struck out on UFAs and wants a veteran back there, Quincey is an ideal target. Detroit isn't going to get a first rounder or mega-prospect for him, but a respectable return would be possible.
- Trade Brendan Smith. Smith would probably return even more than Quincey purely based on his upside and inexpensive deal. I'm not a big fan of this because I'd like to see if the new coach would be good for him, but the return for him would likely be strong.
- Try so hard to trade Kindl. This seems to be the least likely option given how Detroit has tried and failed to find takers in the past, but I have to imagine it's always possible if enough salary is retained.
- Trade the youth. I'd rather not.