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Green on his future with Caps: 'It's not over yet'

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Green on his future with Caps: 'It's not over yet'

NEW YORK – Tonight in Madison Square Garden, when he pulls on his red, white and blue jersey with the number 52 stitched across the back, Mike Green won’t need to be reminded that this could be his last game as a Washington Capital.

He knows. After 10 seasons as the face of the Capitals’ blue line, Green is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and there is a very good chance he won’t be re-signed by the Capitals.

Which is why he wants to win tonight’s Game 7 against the New York Rangers as much as, if not more than, any player in the visitors’ locker room.

“Absolutely,” Green said. “More than I ever have. This is a special time and I really feel fortunate to be part of this right now. I want to be playing, just like every other guy in this dressing room. Regardless of contracts, it doesn’t matter. We want to keep playing. It has more to do with the special bond we have. We love coming to the rink and we don’t want that to end.”

Green, who will turn 30 in October, has been through it all in Washington.

He was there when the Caps finished with the NHL’s third-worst record in 2005-06. He was there for the arrival of Alex Ovechkin and the wave of promise that followed. He led all NHL defensemen with 31 goals in 2008-09 and followed with a career-high 76 points when the Caps went wire-to-wire to win the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009-10.

But he’s also been there for the playoff failures. The crushing Game 7 losses to Philadelphia in 2008, Pittsburgh in 2009, Montreal in 2010, and New York in 2012 and 2013.

Maybe that’s why he’s looking at tonight’s Game 7 in Manhattan as a window and not a door.

“There’s an opportunity here and that’s the key word, opportunity,” Green said. “None of us wants that to go to waste. We want to create something special here, especially with this group of guys. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s not over yet.”

Whenever this playoff run ends, Green will begin looking at his future. With an annual salary of over $6 million, many believe Green can earn at least that figure on the open market. And with big raises ahead for restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson, the Capitals will be hard-pressed to keep their veteran defenseman, not to mention unrestricted free agents Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason.

Which brings us back to tonight. In eight career Game 7s, Green has been on the congratulatory side of the handshake line just three times. He has just one assist in those eight Game 7s.

Asked his mindset going into what could be his final game with the Capitals, Green referenced a happier Game 7 memory from just 16 days ago, when the Caps limited the New York Islanders to 11 shots in a 2-1 victory at Verizon  Center.

“It’s leave it all out there,” Green said. “We’ve been in this position before. Last series against the Islanders we played a great Game 7. We need to have that same mentality and that same feeling after the game. We’ll do everything we can to accomplish that.

“The preparation, the feeling in the room, the commitment to the execution of our system. But really, the will and the want is what it came down to [against the Islanders] and we wanted it more.”

Green also said that when the Caps lace up their skates tonight at the Garden, they will be feeling the support of a fan base that wants them to erase the bitter playoff memories of the past just as much as they do.

“They’re a part of our team, too,” Green said. “They’re just as much a part of our celebration as we are. We’re playing just as hard for ourselves, but for them, too.”

[RELATED: Capitals aren't surprised Rangers fought back]

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Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

There are no signs of Alex Ovechkin slowing down heading into his first season after winning a Stanley Cup. Bovada just released their latest odds for the Hart Memorial Trophy (the NHL’s Most Valuable Player Award) and Ovechkin was tied with the third-best odds to win in all of the NHL at 10/1.

He was joined by two other Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov both at 50/1 odds. 

Here are all the odds for the top 11 players:

Connor McDavid          10/3
Sidney Crosby              13/2
Auston Matthews        10/1
Alex Ovechkin               10/1
Jon Tavares                   10/1
Taylor Hall                     15/1
Nikita Kucherov            15/1
Nathan MacKinnon      15/1
Mark Scheifele              15/1
Anze Kopitar                  18/1
Evgeni Malkin                18/1

The only two players ahead of ‘The Great 8’ are the 21-year-old McDavid and dreaded rival Crosby.

Even with the immense amount of alcohol that has been consumed in the past two months, Ovechkin is still commanding respect in Vegas. It is hard not to when he turns around these intense offseason workouts. At 32, Ovechkin led the NHL in scoring with 49 goals a year ago, the seventh such time he has done so. 

Already the 2018 Conn Smythe winner has three MVP trophies to his name (one more than Crosby) and there is no telling what to expect now that the 11-time All-Star has a Stanley Cup title. 

In his 11 years in the league, Backstrom has never received any votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Kuznetsov only has done so once and that was in the 2015-16 season. 

MORE OVECHKIN NEWS:

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Key Caps questions: What rookies will have an impact next season?

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Key Caps questions: What rookies will have an impact next season?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: What rookies will have an impact with the Caps next season?

In the team's push for the Stanley Cup the last few years, the Capitals brought in several veterans through free agency and trades to bolster the roster. As a result, there was not much room for the team's prospects. Last season, however, Washington took a very different approach.

Nine rookie players suited up for the Caps for at least one game in the regular season in 2017-18, the most the team has played since the 2013-14 season. Six rookies also played at least one game in the playoffs. Washington dressed zero rookies in the postseason in each of the two years prior. In fact, that is the most rookies Washington has used in a postseason in franchise history. 

To say the Caps won because they used their young prospects more so than before would be a gross oversimplification, but clearly there was value to adding cheap, young, talented players to the lineup.

But by returning virtually the same roster as last season, there will be little room for rookies to make a similar impact in 2018-19.

Here's a projected roster of the Caps' opening night lineup:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Nic Dowd/Travis Boyd - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby
Pheonix Copley

Barring injury, there's just not much room there for the young players to break in.

Of the players who still qualify as rookies, the ones to watch are Boyd, Nathan Walker, Shane Gersich, Liam O'Brien, Riley Barber, Jonas Siegenthaler and Ilya Samsonov.

The most obvious answer to the question is Boyd. Jay Beagle's departure leaves a spot open at fourth line center and Boyd would be my pick for the most likely player to fill that role.

The addition of Nic Dowd means Boyd may be the only rookie forward to make the team on opening night. Barry Trotz usually kept only one extra forward and defenseman on the roster, but we do not know if Todd Reirden will have a similar outlook. If there is another spot open, Walker, Gerish, O'Brien and Barber will be in the running. I am not sure I see Walker becoming an every day NHL player, but I could see him coming on as a 14th guy since the Caps have a little bit of breathing room under the salary cap. The same does not go for Gersich who has a higher NHL ceiling. Even though he jumped right into the NHL last season, it is much more likely he goes to the AHL this year to take a large role in Hershey rather than to play scattered minutes in Washington.

O'Brien and Barber also make this list because the clock is ticking for them. Both are 24 and both have spent several years in the organization. They need a strong training camp to prove they belong in the NHL or they risk being viewed less as prospects and more as lifetime AHLers.

Like the offense, the defense also seems pretty set. Of the team's defensive prospects, Siegenthaler is probably the most NHL ready, but I have a hard time believing he will supplant any of the seven defensemen in training camp.

And that brings us to Samsonov.

Samsonov will make his North America debut this fall playing in Hershey. Brain MacLellan has been adamant that Samsonov will be starting in the AHL in order to adjust to the North American game. Just how quickly he can adjust, however, may determine if he earns a jump to the NHL at some point next season.

Samsonov is widely seen as Washington's future in net. While there is no reason to rush him, it is not hard to envision him supplanting Pheonix Copley as the backup should Copley struggle. But first, he has to play well in Hershey.

While the Caps look set throughout the roster, injuries always leave open the possibility for a player to get called up and play his way into a full-time role. As of now, however, it looks like there is not much room for the team's rookies this season, other than Boyd.

Other key Caps questions: