As the trade deadline approaches, all signs are pointing to Detroit being sellers. This was an obvious conclusion for many of us, but the team had been publicly saying that the team is still in the hunt for a playoff spot, so many fans have been nervous that GM Ken Holland wouldn’t pull the trigger on potential trades.
There’s still a good amount of time between now and Monday, February 26, but we are starting our trade deadline coverage now with a look at reasonable expectations for Mike Green, Detroit’s best trade chip (of players who could be traded).
For this article, Peter will take a look at evaluating Mike Green’s value in general. Then, Mike will look at potential destinations and why Green could be a good fit (or not). Then you will tell us what you think in the comments. You might even read the article first!
Looking at Mike Green’s Value
People who have been fans for longer than this season (which would be a weird time to become a fan of the time, but you do you if that’s the case) remember last year’s trade deadline. Fans were happy with the haul for defenseman Brendan Smith and forward Steve Ott, but many were disappointed with the return for Thomas Vanek.
My goal is to provide a reasonable expectation of what Mike Green could return and why (spoiler) I think that it could be less than fans are hoping for.
One of the sticking points for teams looking to add Green is his contract. The first issue is that he has a full NTC. Yes, I can hear your response to that, although I’m sure at least 5 people will still write it in the comments. So yes, it can be waived, and that likely won’t be an issue as long as the team trades him to a team who will likely be in the playoffs. If Detroit tries to send him to Arizona, then Green could very likely say no.
The other issue is his cap hit. His full season cap hit for this year is $6M. Any team acquiring him would likely be doing so purely as a rental, and since his contract expires at the end of this season, it’s a lot easier to fit him under their cap as opposed to if he had more years on this current deal.
Detroit can also retain salary, which I think would be a good move. Without going too deep into the math, the team acquiring Green would be have to fit the percentage of remaining games in the season multiplied by his $6M cap hit. Detroit can retain up to 50% of that money, so the percentage would then be multiplied by $3M, so it would clearly be a much smaller number.
If Detroit retained 50% salary, and Green were traded the day this is being written (Jan 30), the team acquiring him would only have to fit about $1.1M under their cap. Since Green’s daily cap hit is $32,258 (at full salary) , that number would go down by $16k a day between now and the trade deadline, since Detroit would retain half of that.
As was displayed at the All-Star game, Mike Green can still provide offensive value that can help a team. As fans of Detroit have seen this season, Green can be a defensive liability. The question is: Are teams going to think that the former is worth the latter?
So, the ideal fit is going to be a team that needs offensive help from their blueline, specifically on the power play, that can also afford to have Green play on their 3rd pair so they can shelter him at 5v5.
Let’s look at what value Green can bring as that type of player. All stats are from Corsica and accurate as of Jan 30th.
On the Power Play this year, Green is 6th in Points/60 for defenseman, and one of the players ahead of him has played over 50 fewer PP minutes than Green. You have to go back to 17th to get to a player that I’ve seen in trade rumors (Tyson Barrie, and there’s not a lot of smoke there so far).
In addition to the stats, Green clearly still has the vision and the ability to make that great pass on the power play that he has been known for throughout his career.
At 5v5, Green is 130th (for defenseman with > 500 5v5 min) in CF% relative to his teammates. Detroit’s defense is poor overall, so using this relative stat helps to see how he’s doing comparable to the rest of the team. He’s 98th in xGF% at 46.74%, so the team is giving up more quality chances against when he is on the ice than it is producing.
It’s important to remember that Detroit’s team defense is poor compared to the rest of the league, so teams could take that into account. But this matches up with the eye test from watching the team this year that Green’s play on defense can be a liability.
The thing to remember is that Green’s defense is not close to the liability that Vanek’s was last year. Here’s a comparison of Vanek last year and Green this year:
Obviously Green is expected to play more ice time as a defenseman than Vanek was, but he still averaged 9 minutes more a game so far this season than Vanek did last year. He’s also playing in the top four, so he’s not being sheltered at 5v5 like Vanek was. While Green’s 5v5 goals for per 60 is not as high as Vanek’s was last year, his 5v5 goals against per 60 is lower than Vanek’s was, with Green facing better competition.
Another way that Green has not been as sheltered as Vanek was last year is in zone starts. Green has 14% offensive zone starts opposed to 12% defensive zone starts, but Vanek had 22% offensive zone starts compared to just 6% defensive zone starts.
So compared to Vanek last year, Green doesn’t bring as much offense, but he doesn’t need to be sheltered anywhere close to how Vanek did last season. So, while his ideal fit is as a third pairing defenseman, teams could have him on their second pair without feeling too nervous.
While Mike is going to go more into detail on specific potential landing spots, one thing that could drive down Green’s trade value is going to be that he fits a specific need.
For example, let’s look at the Islanders. Their first PP unit according to Daily Faceoff uses Mathew Barzal (right shot) and Nick Leddy (left shot) on the points. There is no way they would consider Green for Barzal an upgrade. The replacement would likely be Ryan Pulock on the 2nd PP unit (Sebastian Aho is their left shot point on their PP2). Is a team going to give up a first round pick to upgrade its 2nd PP unit with someone who can be a defensive liability? Here is a stat comparison of Green and Pulock, so you can see what I’m talking about.
(Please look at the bottom of the chart for how to read it)
Green would definitely be an upgrade over Pulock at this point in his career. But like I said above, the issue is going to be if he is enough of an upgrade to fetch the first round pick that fans have been hoping for. We’ll return to that after Mike takes a look at potential destinations.
Vegas: Nobody thought Vegas was going to be in a position to be buyers at the deadline, but it is the beginning of February and they are now trailing the league-leading Lightning by only a point. They aren’t supposed to be a good team, but they are in fact a very good team, and when a team is this good, you go for the Stanley Cup. That being said, the Knights’ 2nd Power Play unit is quarterbacked by 3rd pairing defenseman Brad Hunt, an undrafted 29 year-old out of Bemidji State who, prior to signing with Knights, played in a whopping 33 NHL games. Mike Green would be signed to replace Brad Hunt, who has played really commendably this year, but is unlikely to be trusted running on a power play in the playoffs when the Knights will likely run into a California team, Calgary, or Dallas in the first round.
As for what Vegas can offer for Green, they have their own first and second round picks, but they sent their third to Minnesota in the Alex Tuch deal. The main issue facing the Knights loading up at the deadline is the Vegas magic has to wear off sometime, and the Knights’ management must know that. This roster isn’t built for sustained success. I am guessing Vegas will be extremely hesitant to part with their own first round pick when the team’s success could likely take a nose dive after this season.
Oh, and Vegas prospects you ask? What prospects? They haven’t been in a real draft yet, so they don’t have any blue-chip pieces for Detroit to pry away. If I am Vegas, I offer Detroit my second round pick for Mike Green, and maybe a late round pick if I’m really digging on picking up Green, but nothing more, because the franchise is too fragile to gamble away much more on a rental.
Toronto: Mike Babcock loves his players to be responsible defenders, so it seems that Mike Green, who has a reputation of being subpar in his own end, would not fit in well with the Babcockian scheme employed in the self-anointed center of the hockey universe. However, a consistent compliment Mike Green gets from opposing management teams is how much more defensively responsible he has become since signing with Detroit. No one is saying he is a rock in the defensive zone, but he has certainly improved quite a bit. That is good news, because Toronto needs help on their right side and the trade deadline is the time of year to stock up on veteran swagger to teach the young’uns how to battle through the playoff war.
One of the benefits to Toronto being bad at hockey for so long is that their draft pipeline is now brimming with talent. Anyone upset Detroit passed on Timothy Liljegren last summer should be overjoyed, because the Wings may get a second pass at landing him now. If the Leafs are hesitant parting with the Swedish blueliner, they have bunches of other prospects, such as Kerby Rychel and Jeremy Bracco, among others. But with Toronto’s cap situation, Detroit will also need to take back a roster player.
Toronto has all the usual picks, plus a second-round bonus pick thanks to the Sharks. Toronto’s location in its life cycle make it not as desperate to add a player like Green as some other teams on this list, so I don’t think they give higher than a second-round pick. Offloading someone like James van Riemsdyk, who is on the last year of his contract with a 4.25 mil cap hit, could be a solution. Detroit will want more than just JVR, but it’s a good starting point.
The Islanders: Despite being in second-to-last in the Metro, the Isles are only a few points outside of the playoff picture because that division is jammed so tightly with good teams. The Isles need Mike Green for a few reasons. First, they need a point-producing defenseman whose name isn’t Nick Leddy. Second, they need a right-handed shot on the second power play unit. Third, they need to continue to convince pending-free agent John Tavares that the Islanders are serious about winning and have a legitimate chance to raise the Stanley Cup. Mike Green does all those things.
And, fascinatingly enough, the Islanders do have an extra first round pick in the 2018 draft, courtesy of the Flames and the Travis Hamonic trade. The Flames seem to be a middle-weight team on the playoff bubble, slightly better than where the Isles currently rest, so the first-round picks are not likely to produce impact players in the immediate future. Of course, Joshua Ho-Sang (RW), Ryan Pulock (D), and Devon Toews (D, no relation) are all interesting prospects. Ho-Sang seems very promising at times, while Pulock seems to have just established himself with the Isles. However, Ho-Sang is a winger, where Detroit already has the most depth, and it seems unlikely they would trade out a young D for a rental. Devon Toews is supposedly lightning fast, but again, Islanders management might be hesitant to give up a young promising defenseman for a rental.
This trade has the potential to go crazy. The Islanders front office has some serious assets they can spend and paranoia surrounding the potential loss of their franchise player this summer to free agency. Add in a potential interest in Petr Mrazek, and let the hype take you away. But lets ignore that for a second and focus on a trade to just land Mike Green in Brooklyn. The Isles would probably want some sort of assurance that Green will re-sign in the offseason, and if that guarantee can be reached, then a first round pick for Mike Green and a fourth round pick (or later) might be a line the nervous Islanders could bite. Salary retention would also be a must for the Isles, since they only have 4 mil in cap space.
Washington: Maybe a homecoming in DC would be just what the doctor ordered for both Green and the Caps. Like the other teams listed, Green would fit in on the Caps’ bottom pairing and with their second powerplay unit. There is always a lot of hubbub about the teams who grab missing pieces at the deadline, only for those missing pieces to never gel into the new system. That wouldn’t be a concern in Washington, where Green spent his entire career before coming to the Wings. This could make him an attractive option for Washington.
The Capitals’ top prospects are Madison Bowey, who is serving in his first season and looks to have the makings of a future stud defenseman, and Ilya Samsonov, a Russian goalie currently playing for Magnitogorsk in the KHL. Otherwise, their talent pool is somewhat thin, so they would likely be loathe to give up either of these two players. However, something has to budge for the Caps to get Mike Green because they only have 1 mil in cap space. The established right-side defensemen (Dmitri Orlov and John Carlson) are too good to trade away for Green, so the Caps might be in a bit of a pickle to make the deal happen.
Things don’t get better for the Caps with draft picks. They only have six this year, notably missing their second-round pick. If the Caps want to get a deal done, they’re going to be looking at forking over a first round pick and a role player for Mike Green, whose salary will be overwhelming retained by Detroit. Best case scenario for the Caps is one where they can wrestle Mike Green away for one of their third round picks instead of the first rounder, but additional parts from Washington would be necessary, and it is hard to tell what those parts would be with the Capitals roster so locked in as it is.
Based on the above, we think it’s not unreasonable for Detroit fans to be hoping for a first round pick, especially if it comes from a contender, who will have a later pick in each round. Retaining salary should also increase the chances of that happening.
While we are still hoping for that, however, we are preparing ourselves for a return more like the return we got for Brendan Smith. Green isn’t a fit for every team, and the market could very well be only a few teams. The Rangers have also said that Ryan McDonagh is available, and he brings more value for a lower cap hit. The difference is that McDonagh is not a rental, since he has another year on his contract. He doesn’t bring as much PP offense, but McDonagh can play top pair minutes.
Short version: While a first rounder is not a pipe dream, we think fans should set their expectations at a 2nd, 3rd, and maybe a prospect. We would of course love to be wrong and get back more.
What do you think is a REALISTIC return for Mike Green?
This poll is closed
Less than the return for Brendan Smith (2nd and 3rd)
Same as Brendan Smith
Better than Brendan Smith, but not a first rounder (2nd, 3rd, prospect or something similar)
A first round pick
A first round pick, plus more (another pick or prospect)