Puck Daddy - NHL

Buried inside a Sunday column that accuses NHL officials of being in the tank for Crosby and the Penguins (hockey referees, subjectively calling penalties? Très scandaleux!), Larry Brooks of the NY Post reported that RFA defenseman Mike Green of the Washington Capitals was being "low-balled" by his team in negotiations.

Simply put, Green is the best young defenseman in hockey. His 56 points in 82 games, including a League-best 18 goals, were a revelation last season; having watched the kid for most of those games, his star qualities go beyond the numbers. He's a great stickhandler, and he glides along the blue line on the power play with Niedermayer-like effortlessness. He makes mistakes that a 22-year-old defenseman should make; but his speed allows him to cover up for many of them, and eventually he'll stop making them. If you're building a defense in today's NHL, you start with a player like Mike Green.

But the question is whether the "low balling" actually is true. J.P. from Japers' Rink adds up the evidence and points a finger at Green's agent (and formerly Alexander Ovechkin's) Don Meehan:

It could mean that the Caps are offering a deal that's way below Meehan's assessment of market value or it could mean that the Caps are offering a deal that's way below what Meehan is willing to accept for reasons detailed above. If it's the former, perhaps there's hope that the two sides can reach some middle ground (though I personally wrestle with what legitimate market value for a 22-year-old with Green's upside is, and I imagine I'm not alone). If it's the latter, however, and there's nothing that fits within the Caps salary structure that they could offer and have Meehan accept, there's little point in continuing negotiations at this point.

Green made peanuts last year ($833,000 cap hit), so any initial offers were likely to be low by an agent's standards. The real concern in the negotiation is Kevin Lowe someone swooping in and offering Green an astronomical contract that either blows out the Capitals' salary structure (if that's possible post-Ovechkin) or forces them to let Green skate away. Losing a restricted free-agent defenseman is a touchy subject in D.C.; if you need to ask why, just count how many times the name "Scott Stevens" is listed on the Stanley Cup.

At a press conference today about the NHL Draft, Washington General Manager George McPhee decided to put an end to the speculation that Green could leave. From Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post's Capitals Insider:

"If someone puts an offer sheet in front of one of our players," McPhee said during a news conference in Arlington to preview this weekend's NHL Entry Draft, "we'll match it - probably in less than 10 minutes." McPhee's comments come a few days after a source told me that Green's camp - which is unhappy with the offers it has received to this point - plans to take negotiations to July 1 in the hopes of attracting an offer sheet.

If that offer comes, the Capitals appear ready to match it. Which is great news for a franchise that can't afford to lose a budding star like Green, who could be a fixture on the blueline for the next decade.

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