- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2014

When the Washington Capitals opened their coffers to former Pittsburgh defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen shortly after the free-agent signing period began on July 1, it appeared as though Mike Green’s tenure with the organization was drawing to a close.

Green, a one-time 30-goal scorer whose last three seasons have been blemished by unfortunate injuries and untimely miscues, appeared, on the surface, to be no higher than fifth in the Capitals‘ defensive rotation.

That, plus the remaining terms on Green’s contract — one year at $6.25 million, albeit with a modified no-trade clause — led to the possibility that Green wouldn’t be in Washington when training camp opened.

Yet there he was Friday, part of the red group, the last of three on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, trying to move past an offseason of uncertainty.

“Yeah, I’ve obviously thought about it,” Green said. “I know where I’m at in my contract, and it’s a big year, but what will get me a good contract is if we win a Stanley Cup. Hopefully, Washington and myself can come to an agreement.”

General manager Brian MacLellan, appointed to the post in May when the contract of George McPhee wasn’t renewed, made no promises that Green would last in Washington. When asked if he could see Green remaining with the team past the upcoming season, MacLellan said he “would assume so,” because Green’s “a good player. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league when he’s playing well.”

Yet MacLellan also said that the team had not yet begun contract talks with Green’s representatives, preferring to take a wait-and-see approach.

“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty here,” MacLellan said. “I think we need to get into the season and see how our D pans out and what the pairs are like and how it looks. I think we need to play some games.”

New coach Barry Trotz was known for his defense-centric system during the better part of his 15 years coaching in Nashville, but the argument can be made that Trotz’s teams lacked the marquee offensive players that he’ll have in Washington.

He has said that he hopes his forwards play better defensively, and his defensemen play better offensively, but putting Green back in position to score more than 30 goals — or at least match his 2009-10 season, when he scored 19 — seems unlikely.

At the very least, Trotz wants Green to be able to move the puck as well as he did earlier in his career. And, Green believes, that can happen as long as he has consistency; most frequently paired with Dmitry Orlov last season, he also shared the ice at times with Karl Alzner and Jack Hillen.

“I think it’s important to sort of have chemistry with your partner, and it was very tough to sort of develop that when you have a new partner every night,” Green said. “It was definitely a bit of a kerfuffle throughout the whole season.”

While Trotz has loosely penciled in his lineups for each of the Capitals‘ eight preseason games — the first of which was a 1-0 win over Buffalo on Sunday — he won’t begin to develop his initial defensive pairings for at least a week.

What’s certain, though, is that Green will have a role. After initially meeting Trotz last offseason, Green is encouraged by his new coach’s structure and system; Trotz, likewise, appreciates Green’s experience enough to select the defenseman to his leadership group, a council of several players who will help link the locker room with the coaching staff.

“This is a business, and you never know what’s going to happen, but I’m very excited to still be a part of this organization,” Green said. “My heart’s here and it has always been here.”

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