Monday, February 18, 2008

How Much Green For Green?

What better way to honor today's national holiday than with a discussion about dead presidents (and lots of 'em)?

With a pair of Alexes signed, sealed and delivering, a portion of the off-ice attention of Caps fans has turned to the task of re-signing the team's other Restricted Free Agents, namely Mike Green, Shaone Morrisonn, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr and Brooks Laich. Most of those guys should be relatively easy to lock up, but one - Green - may present something of a challenge in that it's difficult to determine precisely how much "potential" is worth.

Drafted 29th overall in 2004, Green is having a breakout season in his contract year of 2007-08 (coincidence? Probably). He leads all NHL blueliners in goals (15) and overtime tallies (3), is 12th in points (37), second in game-winning goals (3), fourth in power play goals (7) and fifth in shots on goal (152) - all this after racking up three goals, 12 assists and a minus-18 rating in his first 92 NHL games.

Green - who is 25 days younger than Alex Ovechkin - has really come into his own under head coach Bruce Boudreau, to the tune of 12 goals and 30 points in 39 games in a whopping 26:40 of ice time per game, an average that would rank him 4th in the League in TOI/G if it were his average on the season.

So what's Green worth?

Let's look at a couple of recent deals signed by young blueliners. Dion Phaneuf signed a 6-year/$39m ($6.5m per year) deal earlier in the month. Fedor Tyutin signed a 4-year/$11.375m ($2.8m per year) deal yesterday. You don't need to be Al Morganti to know that Green's deal will fall somewhere in between those two, so let's dig deeper.

Ryan Whitney inked for 6 years at $4m per year as an RFA last summer. Now we're getting somewhere. Whitney, the fifth overall pick in 2002, signed his deal after his second full NHL season, one in which he played 81 games, was sixth among blueliners in scoring with 14 goals and 45 helpers and posted a plus-nine rating. This followed a 68 game, 6 goal/32 assist, minus-seven campaign. In other words, Whitney had 149 games, 20 goals and 77 assists (and a playoff appearance) under his belt before signing his deal. Green, if he continues his "Boudreau pace" through the end of the season, he'll have around 174 games, 24 goals and 44 assists on his resume.

But contracts aren't rewards for what a player has done, they're predictions of what a player will do, and the sky seems to be the limit on what Green might be capable of. Just for fun, here's a quick look at blueliners who have led the League in goals since the beginning of this decade, and how many they had:
  • 1999-00: Nicklas Lidstrom (20)
  • 2000-01: Brian Leetch (21)
  • 2001-02: Sergei Gonchar (26 - damn)
  • 2002-03: Sergei Gonchar, Nicklas Lidstrom, Andy Delmore (18)
  • 2003-04: Wade Redden, Pavel Kubina (17)
  • 2005-06: Mathieu Schneider (21)
  • 2007-08: Sheldon Souray (26)
Not a bad list of blueline bombers, and regardless of what you might think of this crew's abilities in their own zone, one thing is for sure - these guys have gotten paid (with the exception of the undrafted and inconsistent Delmore). Of course, they have gotten paid through unrestricted free agency or the threat thereof, something Mike Green doesn't have on his side.

Which brings us back to Whitney as a benchmark. He has the better pedigree than Green (5th overall vs. 29th, 3rd defenseman taken in his draft vs. 8th), but that doesn't mean much after a player's entry level contract expires. He will have had the more impressive pre-contract stats, but, like we said, contracts are predictions, not rewards. Mike Green, right now, is the better player of the two by most traditional measures - he has more goals and assists, four times as many hits, eight times as many takeaways - and is two-and-a-half years younger. With the salary cap set to rise another $3m or so and general contract inflation, it's highly likely that Green will make more, per annum, than Whitney.

So as we leave Ryan Whitney's neighborhood and drive north, the question is how far do we keep going? Mike Green is not Dion Phaneuf (though they do share an agent, one that prominently displays Green on its website as an indication of their perception of his value). Phaneuf is a guy who scored 20 goals as a rookie, has 48 goals, 93 assists and a plus-18 rating in his first 220 NHL games and hits like an eighteen-wheeler, so we don't get all that far. But Mike Green has shown that he's a capable puck-moving defenseman with fantastic speed and stickhandling who can play both the body and big minutes. He is a legitimate first-pairing blueliner when paired with the right partner, but can get out of his comfort zone otherwise. Most importantly, he's impressive as hell at just 22-years-old.

What's it going to take to keep Green in red, white and blue for the next few years? Given the team's salary structure - in which Alex Semin will make $4.6 million for each of the next two years - a four-year/$18-million deal should certainly get it done (the benefit of a four-year deal being that at the end thereof, he'd still have another year as an RFA), and if it didn't, I'd start preparing myself to accept the draft pick compensation that would be headed our way when Green leaves town. What do you think?


Red Rover said...

4 years/18 million seems realistic, but I have a baaaaad feeling Greenie is gonna want more. Given our other non-Alex scoring options Green has a case to make that without him our offense is toast. If he makes it to the market, I think the Caps will be hard pressed to match the lucrative offers he'll get. I'd be shocked if he doesn't ask for a minimum $5 mil/per.

~Mark said...

I don't expect to see us let Greenie walk, as he is really the cornerstone of the D corp of the future. I think it's clear after the Kevin Lowe tornado last year, it's better to overpay 25%, than over pay by 200% (think Tomas Vanek) when another team signs someone to an outrageous offer sheet.

Hooks Orpik said...

As you alluded to JP, the Caps have an interesting salary structure. Next year they only have 7 players under contract, but they account for over $28 million. Of course they'll be rounded out easily by most the RFAs with modest raises on their current salaries, but it makes one wonder how far they'll be willing to go for Green.

It'll be interesting, that's for sure. I think Green could definitely make a point that he is worth more than $4.5 million a year in another teams eyes. And given the way the NHL is, you probably won't have to look too far to find a rival club willing to give it to him.

Anonymous said...

JP, I'm with you. If the Capitals can get Green for 4-4.8 mil/year then they should do it (good call on the 4 years as well) but if someone wants to go nuts and offer him more, the organization might be better off to let him go and take the picks.

The issue to me isn't picks versus keeping the player, it's the money; you'd hate to see that Capitals have too much invested in only a few players. The fact that they have a deep, young group of defensemen doesn't hurt either.

D.C One Timer said...

I defin. think Green 4 years 4.5 is about right, however I am interested to see what happens with Morrisonn...we have seen the tons of attention he has gotten for his stable numbers and the support he gives Green...if pothier gets 2.5, doesn't Morrisonn at least get that?

Unknown said...

I think Tyutin's deal is nuts. This is a guy who only gets 20:00 TOI about half the time, maybe a bit less than that even. So if I'm 26 I'm looking at that deal with glee.

I think your formulation of 52's numbers is about right.

But I'm a little unclear on this: How many No. 1s do the Caps get if they lose 52? Is it three or five? I get my leagues/CBAs mixed up.

Brian said...

A couple of thoughts:

1) I don't want the Caps to end up like TB and have all their money tied up in 4-5 players. At some point, the cap numbers aren't going to rise as fast and we could be in a situation where we can't get the player we want because we don't have the cap space.

2) If it doesn't look like he can sign him, I would like to see GMGM trade Green and his rights to the Western Conference. We would get prospects and/or draft picks back and be assured (for a while) that Green wouldn't become a Caps Killer on another Eastern Conference team.

3) There's depth at the defensemen position - Lepisto, Boumedienne, Alzner, and a guy in Grand Rapids that will punch anything.

Anonymous said...

maybe we could get away with a 3 year deal and we'd have a little better idea what he was capable of while still having two years in RFA status.


1) Compensatin for Green(RFA):
To sign an RFA to a deal worth more than $4.8 million per year or more, it would cost four first-round picks.
2) That's stiff. But it's only one second round pick for salaries of $1.1 to $2.3 million, a first- and third-rounder for $2.3 to $3.5 million and a first, second and third rounder for $3.5 to $4.7 million.
3) The ladder is what Anaheim got for Penner

Anonymous said...

This is the hidden problem with rebuilding through the draft. You think you're avoiding overpaying by not pursuing UFAs, but you end up paying in the end. It's a good problem to have though, I'd much rather have Green than Souray.


1) have a feeling Green will ask for/get a tad more than 5 mil. Would/should he take a home town discount? Probably not
2) Would he get at least that if he were to get an offer sheet this summer? Definitly. If Dustin Penner is worth 4.3 mil as a potential power forward Mike Green is worth 5.3 mil(Minimum) as a power play quarter back. On some/many nights he's the Caps second best FORWARD!
3) The longer GMGM waits to get a deal done, the higher the asking price may be.

Anonymous said...

You think someone is going to give up four 1st rounders to pay Mike Green $5 mil per? And God Love Mike Green but what has he done but for 40 games in this league?

meep_42 said...

I'm wondering why the sign-and-trade hasn't gotten traction in the NHL... some team could lock up Green to a $5M contract and trade away less than 4 1st round picks, but in players/prospects that are likely to help sooner than 2010-2011.

Is there some cap reason or rule prohibiting this? Or just that the teams that would want an RFA wouldn't want to part with their NHL-ready talent?


Anonymous said...

The question is though.
Could green possibly be a one year wonder??
He is already starting to cool down somewhat. And while its obvious that he will be an effective NHL defensman maybe next year he only manages 5 goals and 20 assists.
This is in my opinion kind of a gamble.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a 2 year deal to see how the kid really pans out.
Hell i thought last year was Pettinger's breakout year. Look how that turned out.

Anonymous said...

There are two factors working AGAINST Mike Green this summer, and those factors are Jonathan Tavares and Victor Hedman.

Any team that makes an offer to an RFA like Green this summer might get him, but then they would have to give up their first round draft pick in 2009 along with several other picks.

No team plans on being out of the playoffs and in the lottery after making a big signing, like Green would be.

But the fact is, GM's will be VERY reluctant to give up those 2009 picks on the outside chance that they might get "The Next One" Tavares, or the Swedish defender Hedman, who some people think might be better than Tavares (and whose brother Oscar is a Caps draftee, by the way).

In any case, Green does not have as much leverage as he might have had in other years. Let's hope they can make the math work out.


NS said...

Whether we sign him for $4.5mil or below (hopefully below - i'd like to see 3-3.75mil) or someone offers more as part of a RFA signing, its a win-win.

I'd like to see him stay, but 4 first rounders? yes please. no GM would be stupid enough to do that.......right..........??

Anonymous said...

Good post, JP - as usual, excellent analysis - good ideas from the others on MG too......

MG is Boudreau's guy and vice versa - I'm not sure other coaches would have given Green the same attention, confidence, and responsibility - I'm not saying the guy will sign for less to help the Caps' cap issues, but I'm not sure he's dieing to get out of DC either.

And whoever posted about Green having ONE monster year is spot on, too - 5 mil / year for an single amazing year?? Not sure we can afford that gamble - I say if its gotta be 5 mil - make it for 2 years - give him less if he wants to lock in a longer deal.