The Detroit Red Wings weren’t able to trade the expiring contract of defenseman Mike Green at the deadline given his injury concerns, but now might not be losing him for nothing in free agency after all. Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports that the Red Wings are in talks with Green and believe they can sign him to a two-year contract. Detroit obviously could ink Green to a deal before Sunday since he’s still under their control, though there was expected to be plenty of interest in him on the open market as one of the better puck-moving defensemen available. Green is coming off a three-year, $18MM contract with the Red Wings he signed in the summer of 2015.
Now 32 years old, Green is no longer the dominant offensive weapon he once was. Scoring 31 goals in just 68 games during the 2008-09 season, and followed it up with a 76-point campaign, he finished second in Norris Trophy voting in consecutive years. That incredible powerplay weapon may be gone, but Green can still contribute with the man advantage and be an effective puck-moving option at even-strength. He’s not as weak defensively as some may believe, and doesn’t require extremely sheltered minutes like other offensive-minded players—though he would likely excel if given them.
The Red Wings, who recently bought out Xavier Ouellet and traded Robbie Russo, need someone to play defense for them even if some of their younger players are ready to take the next step. Niklas Kronwall, Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson are all on the last legs of their careers and bring long injury histories, while Danny DeKeyser isn’t as effective as he once was. Re-signing Green would also keep an asset in the organization that could be valuable at the trade deadline, a strategy that could pay dividends if he’s not injured this time and doesn’t demand a no-movement clause.
Green should have enough leverage for a fairly expensive contract, but the Red Wings have plenty of cap space to fit him in. Sitting more than $20MM under the ceiling, Detroit could be quite creative with free agents this summer. Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha all need new deals, but for a rebuilding squad that just had one of the best drafts in the league, signing veteran names to short-term deals that could be moved at the deadline is a solid plan.