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Dixon: Washington Capitals must trade Mike Green

Mike Green had 24 points in 49 games for the Capitals this season. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Mike Green had 24 points in 49 games for the Capitals this season. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

I didn’t want to be that guy, but I can’t help it.

My least favorite huff-and-puff refrain in the wake of a good team getting bounced from the playoffs is “Trade Player X.” But I’m breaking my own rule because it seems so blatantly apparent the Washington Capitals need to trade Mike Green.

Let the eye-rolling from the establishment begin.

I understand it’s easy to point fingers and suggest GMs need theirs to be itchier on the trigger when good teams flame out, but for a number of reasons, moving the defenseman makes sense.

First and foremost, if Caps GM George McPhee made it known Green was up for grabs, a number of teams would be kicking the tires hard enough to knock the bolts loose. Yes, he’s had some injury troubles, but he’s still only 25 and his annual cap hit of $5.3 million is on the books for just one more year, at which time he becomes an RFA. Green led all defensemen in scoring in both 2008-09 and 2009-10, earning a Norris nomination in the latter campaign.

If you want to find clubs that would be interested in Green’s services, start at the bottom, as in where Columbus (29th) and Florida (30th) ranked in terms of power play efficiency. The Blue Jackets have been in search of an offense-oriented defenseman since their inception and the Panthers could pad the youth movement by adding a guy who is just entering his prime.

Green is a dynamic player whom the Capitals can only afford to move because 21-year-old John Carlson has demonstrated he’s going to be a two-way force in the league. Washington is also facing the harsh reality of having almost $51 million worth of cap space already devoted to 18 players next year. Deleting Green’s salary from the books would alleviate some strain and possibly help the team retain UFA-to-be Brooks Laich, whose gritty, two-way game is exactly what this team will need larger doses of to succeed.

The reason the Capitals have Green and Carlson to begin with is because management has done an outstanding job finding quality players outside the top end of the draft. Green was taken 29th overall in 2004; Carlson went 27th overall in 2008 and Dmitri Orlov, a talented Russian who is likely to join the team in the next year or two, was snagged 55th overall in 2009. All this means Washington has laid the groundwork for the inevitable loss of stars that a salary cap system dictates. It also means the club is likely to make the most of any picks it acquires for Green, as the cycle of replenishment continues.

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Green’s year, right up until the end when he missed the Caps’ final playoff game with a hip flexor, was obviously marred by injuries, so it’s vital to note this is not a plan of action based solely on how things went this season. This is a cumulative assessment, drawing on the fact Green just hasn’t quite been the player Washington needs him to be in the post-season. And let’s face it, when a team as good as the Caps fails to make it past Round 2 in four consecutive years, something has to give. Shipping out a still-young player capable of winning a Norris Trophy in the next little while is not something that should or would be taken lightly.

But whether it’s because the salary cap forces its hand or just due to annual disappointment, changes, on some scale, are coming to Washington – and Green going makes the most sense.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays.

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