The Capitals took a step to keep one of their young stars in town for a few more years to come, signing Mike Green to a three-year contract extension worth $18.25 million on Monday.
Green, who was a restricted free agent this summer at age 26, elected not to sign his one-year, $5 million qualifying offer with the Capitals Sunday. Instead, he gets a three-year deal - at a raise over the four-year, $21 million deal that expired this past month.
With the market for free-agent defensemen heated right now - former Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman earned a five-year, $26.25 million deal from the Flames just last month - the Capitals give Green a raise - but they take up at least two years the Calgary native would have gotten as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
But injuries took their toll on the blueliner the last two seasons, and even impacted the negotiations with the Caps this past year.
"It's been a long process," Green told reporters on a conference call Monday. "I think negotiations started early on in the year. Then with the setback of the injury, we were going to wait, and then wait after the playoffs, wait after the draft and then after free agency. It's been pushed back, but I think we knew I obviously wanted to be in Washington, and they wanted me back.
"So, there were times to wait, but I'm glad it's done with now."
Just 18 months ago in January 2011, Green was named an assistant captain for Team Staal in his first All-Star Game in Raleigh, and was coming off back-to-back seasons of being nominated for the league's Norris Trophy for top defenseman.
Since that All-Star appearance, Green has just three goals and six games in 37 regular-season contests, but the Capitals are banking on a full recovery from the Calgary native.
He was injured when a slap shot from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik injured him on February 6, 2011, and Green just played two regular season games the rest of the way, suffering a pair of injuries that kept him out of the lineup for most of the regular season and was knocked out for Game 4 in the second-round sweep by Tampa.
This past year, a sports hernia limited Green to just 32 regular season games, but he did play all 14 playoff contests.
"I'll be honest with you, I really didn't feel like I was back to myself until the middle of the playoffs [this year]," Green said. "Not as far as the mental game, but just my injury from surgery, not that it was bothering me to the extent to the extent I couldn't play my game or whatnot, but physically it took that long for my injury to heal and play my game again. It was a little too late, the season ended too short for us.
"But I'm 100 percent now and ready for next season."
Green thrived under former coach Bruce Boudreau's offensive style which allowed him to rush the puck up ice, and he established himself as one of the league's top puck-rushing defensemen from 2007-08 to 2009-10. But his game was hemmed in under the change to a more defensive posture under Boudreau and Dale Hunter when he was more limited with what he could do offensively.
Now, with new coach Adam Oates bringing a more offensive style back to the Caps, Washington hopes Green can capture some of that saw him record 149 points in two seasons before his injury troubles set in.
"I think that I played more of a defensive game [under Hunter], in that sense, that's what Dale expected was grinder, chip-in, chip-out kind of game," Green said. "I respect him as a coach, played that way, and played hard for him.
"But I also at the same time excited Adam is here, really excited. From what I heard and how he likes to coach it fits my style of play and a lot of the other guys. Hopefully there's a balance between Bruce Boudreau and Dale. I think Adam's the guy."
While Green could have taken the qualifying offer and likely reach free agency next summer, he opted to take a longer deal and keep himself in the fold two more years when the Capitals offered it.
"I was more looking for two [years], but three made sense for us. I want to be in Washington, and when they offered three, I had no problems signing another year because I love it there."
And, asked if he could get back to the 70-point plateau he enjoyed before the injuries set in, Green left little doubt.
"100 percent. It'll be next year," he said. Asked again, he replied "Absolutely. There's no question about it. I feel like I'm getting into my prime."