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Green: 'I'm just getting into my prime'

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Green: 'I'm just getting into my prime'

Mike Green seems to understand that with great expectations come great responsibility.

After agreeing to a three-year deal worth 18.25 million on Monday the 26-year-old defenseman says he plans on delivering both.

Asked in a conference call with reporters if he believes he can get back to being the player who delivered back-to-back seasons of 70 or more points in 2008-09 and 2009-10, Green didnt hesitate.

A hundred percent, he said in a conference call with reporters, and itll be next year.

Injuries the past two seasons limited Green to just 30 points in 81 games, a far cry from the 149 points he produced in 143 games the previous two seasons. Asked if playing in a more offensive system under new coach Adam Oates might allow him to get back to those totals, Green backed up his previous statement.

Absolutely, theres no question about it, he said. I feel like Im just getting into my prime.

Green said negotiations on his contract extension actually began early last season. But when an ankle injury was followed by a groin tear that led to abdominal surgery to correct a sports hernia, negotiations were put off until after July 1.

Green said he actually wanted a two-year deal, which under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement would have allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent at age 28. But when the Capitals offered as much as they did over three seasons hell make 6 million in each of the next two seasons and 6.25 million in 2014-15 Green agreed to the third year.

I want to be in Washington, he said, and when they offered three, I had no problems signing another year because I love it there.

Caps fans will love having Green for three years if he can get back to the defenseman he was three seasons ago when he led all NHL defensemen with 19 goals, 57 assists and 76 points. By comparison, Dennis Wideman led all Capitals defensemen last season with 11 goals, 35 assists and 46 points.

In fact, Green would have led the team in scoring last season if he produced 76 points.

Green acknowledged that his offensive game suffered last season because of his recovery from abdominal surgery and the suffocating defensive style of former coach Dale Hunter. He said he didnt feel 100 percent physically until the middle of the Capitals 14-game playoff run, which ended with a Game 7 loss to the Rangers in Round 2.

What Dale expected was kind of a grinder, chip-in, chip-out kind of game, Green said. I respect him as a coach and I played that way and played hard for him. But at the same time Im excited that Adam is here actually, really excited.

From what I heard, how he likes to coach fits my style of play and hopefully a lot of the other guys.

Green said he has not yet spoken with Oates but plans on giving him a phone call to introduce himself. He said he thinks the additions of center Mike Ribeiro and winger Wojtek Wolski should help the Capitals power play, which finished 18th in the NHL at 16.7 percent while also allowing 10 shorthanded goals.

Most importantly, Green said he is looking forward to playing a full season without setbacks due to injuries.

Personally, for my own mental state its important that I get back to that and almost prove to myself I can do it, he said. Its been unfortunate over the past two years. I ran into injuries that caused a fallback in that points department. I know Im able to do it and its just a matter of me being healthy and going out and doing it.

As for the financial commitment made to him by the Capitals, Green said he plans on earning every penny.

They know what Im capable of, he said. I think I got the injuries all out of my system. I think as happy as I am, theyre happy and they know Im committed to the hockey team. Its a win-win for everybody.

Can Mike Green return to being the NHL's top-scoring defenseman? Your thoughts?

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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

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

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss 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: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?

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Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

Defenseman Madison Bowey re-signed with the Capitals on Thursday, inking a two-year extension that will carry an average of $1 million.

Bowey carried a cap charge of $703,333 last season.

The 23-year-old appeared in 51 games for the Caps in 2017-18, amassing 12 assists, 24 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of minus-3.

Bowey also suited up in nine contests for AHL Hershey, though he finished the season as one of the Black Aces during Washington's run to the Stanley Cup.

With Bowey back in the fold, the Caps now have six of seven defenseman from last season’s roster under contract. (Veteran Brooks Orpik remains an unrestricted free agent.)

Bowey had an uneven first year in the NHL—he didn’t play following the late-February addition of Michal Kempny—but the Caps expect that the 6-2, 198-pound right-shot blue liner will become reliable full-time player with more seasoning.

Bowey’s deal leaves Tom Wilson as the Caps' only remaining unsigned restricted free agent. The sides are in discussions on a multi-year extension.

Including Bowey’s extension, the Caps have roughly $7.3 million in salary cap space remaining, according to CapFriendly.

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