Capitals lock up Green

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Defenseman Mike Green was considered one of the top restricted free agents set to hit the market Tuesday.

The Washington Capitals didn’t let that happen.

Green signed a four-year contract worth $21 million on Tuesday morning, just hours before other teams would have been able to officially sign him to an offer sheet. The 22-year-old Green led all players at his position last year with 18 goals and finished eighth among defensemen with 56 points.

After showing up at training camp in considerably better shape, thanks in part to the time he spent with a personal trainer from Crash Conditioning in his hometown of Calgary during the offseason, Green was an improved player at the start of the season.

But his year really took off when Bruce Boudreau was hired to replace dispatched coach Glen Hanlon.

Green had played for Boudreau with Hershey of the American Hockey League, and the offensive-minded defenseman was a perfect fit for the new coach’s system. He finished the year averaging 23:38 of ice time per game, but the amount he played for Boudreau was higher.

At an average annual salary of $5.25 million, Green becomes the second-highest paid player in Washington behind Alex Ovechkin. He is also the 17th-highest paid defenseman in the league, although Brian Campbell and Wade Redden are likely to sign deals that will also surpass Green’s. Among defensemen under the age of 29, only Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf ($6.5 million) is set to make more next season.

Green could just be the first signing of the day for the Caps. The team has unrestricted free agents Cristobal Huet, Sergei Fedorov and Matt Cooke to consider. After going 11-2 for the Caps upon arriving with the team at the trade deadline, Huet is a priority as general manager George McPhee tries to keep his division-winning club intact.

Fedorov is also a possibility, but Cooke is unlikely to be back.

There also are several restricted free agents, including forwards Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr as well as defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. Should any of those players sign an offer sheet with another team, the Caps have the right to match.

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