Mike Green picked a good time to have his breakthrough season, didn't he? He didn't miss a game all season, had a League-leading 18 goals from the blueline, a 20-goal/65-point pace after Thanksgiving, and a plus-eleven rating after January, all of which lead to a seventh-place finish in Norris Trophy voting at the tender age of 22, which will, in turn, lead to big bucks this summer for one of the most attractive Restricted Free Agent targets.
But you knew that.
Then you read Larry Brooks yesterday, who wrote that "Green, a dynamic difference maker, is being low-balled by the Caps," and your stomach dropped. Now, Brooks certainly isn't the most credible character in the world of hockey journalism, but rather than dismissing this out of hand, let's take a second to think about it.
Assuming that no one in the Caps organization is running around bragging to folks about how insulting their offers to the young blueliner have been - a pretty safe assumption, I should think - where would Brooks be getting his information? Perhaps from the same place writers always get their information on player contract negotiations - from the player's agent.
For example, Adrian Dater just the other day wrote in The Denver Post that a deal between the Avalanche and Jose Theodore was (and presumably still is) "imminent." Dater's source? Not the Colorado front office, of course, but Theodore's agent Don Meehan.
So Don Meehan is chatty. Know what else he is? Mike Green's agent (and Matt Cooke's, Steve Eminger's and Eric Fehr's). Know what else he is? [Cue Dramatic Hamster] Alex Ovechkin's former agent who Ovechkin famously fired after five years of representation, less than 14 months before Ovechkin signed his 13-year/$124m mega-deal. Given that a sports agent's cut is typically around three or four percent of his client's salary, that's potentially upwards of $3.7 million (perhaps much more) over the span of Ovechkin's deal that's not going into Don Meehan's bank account.
Whether or not Meehan has a legitimate ax to grind with the Caps, one could pretty easily see why he'd want to reach into Ted Leonsis's pocket and take as much money as he possibly can as some form of payback.
Which brings us back to Green. If Meehan is telling Larry Brooks that the Caps are low-balling Mike Green, it could mean one of two things: it could mean that the Caps are offering a deal that's way below Meehan's assessment of market value or it could mean that the Caps are offering a deal that's way below what Meehan is willing to accept for reasons detailed above. If it's the former, perhaps there's hope that the two sides can reach some middle ground (though I personally wrestle with what legitimate market value for a 22-year-old with Green's upside is, and I imagine I'm not alone). If it's the latter, however, and there's nothing that fits within the Caps salary structure that they could offer and have Meehan accept, there's little point in continuing negotiations at this point.
Maybe I'm being a bit conspiracy-minded, but this thing certainly seems to be headed for the RFA negotiating and signing period without a deal being done, at which point another team would do the dirty work of putting together a deal, Green would sign it, and the Caps would match as they have said they would (which may, actually, be the best and cleanest way to get this done... and if you think it would sour the relationship between the team and the player, I can assure you it would not).
One thing is for sure: agents can indeed be a frightening prospect. At some point, perhaps the player himself is going to have to step in.