What Mike Green had feared for the better part of the past two months finally came true on Thursday.
His tenure with the Washington Capitals has come to an end.
The defenseman signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, reportedly worth an average annual value of $6 million, hours after the NHL’s free-agent signing period began.
“Obviously, a lot of memories in Washington, and some memories that I definitely won’t forget,” Green said Thursday afternoon on a conference call hosted by the Red Wings. “But it sort of slapped me in the face now that it’s time to move. I’m extremely excited to get started with the Red Wings, and I’m looking forward to moving forward, to be honest. The past is the past now, so just got to look forward.”
Green, 29, had been with the Capitals since the team drafted him 29th overall in 2004. A two-time finalist for the Norris Trophy, he became the only defenseman in the salary cap era to score more than 30 goals in a season when he scored 31 in 2008-09.
He had become such a mainstay in Washington that a large banner featuring his likeness had been draped on the side of a parking garage connected to the team’s practice facility in Arlington, and that the Capitals felt compelled to put out a statement Thursday afternoon thanking him for his time with the team.
“Mike was an ultimate professional in his long tenure with our organization and had a huge impact on our community,” the statement read. “We wish Mike all the best with the Detroit Red Wings organization.”
Green was unlikely to return to the Capitals because of their salary cap situation, and instead will find a home with a team that has made the playoffs in each of the previous 24 seasons.
Playing a reduced role last season under Barry Trotz, Green was highly productive, finishing with 45 points off 10 goals and 35 assists. He played in 72 games, his most since 2009-10, and averaged 19:06 of ice time — a deduction from the 25 minutes per game he had played over the last seven seasons.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he viewed Green as a fit alongside Danny DeKeyser as the team’s top defensive pairing, and that Green would play a role on the team’s first power play unit.
“We’ve just had a lot of left-shot defensemen, and it’s hard to find defensemen who can create offense,” Holland said. “You either draft them and kind of develop them, or you’ve got to be lucky to make a big trade for one or get one as a free-agent signing … so certainly, today was a great day to add a defenseman who can provide offense, join the rush, shoots right and give our team another dimension.”
Green said he had recently been training with Red Wings center Darren Helm, who told him about new coach Jeff Blashill’s approach.
“Everything just seemed to flow well, and that just helped with my decision, for sure,” Green said.