As the Washington Capitals close in on the final 20 games of the 2011-12 NHL Season, one of the biggest reasons the team has been overwhelmingly disappointing thus far has obviously been the absence of defenseman Mike Green.
Green, a two-time Norris Trophy finalist and former 30-goal scorer is one of the best offensive blueliners in the game, and more importantly, makes the Caps a different team entirely when he's in the lineup.
Unfortunately, injuries to both his groin and ankle have caused Green to miss all but 10 games so far this year, and in his absence, the Capitals have struggled to even remain in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
While General Manager George McPhee obviously hopes that Green will be back at somewhere close to full strength for the final push towards the postseason, the club must know better than to count on Green to be healthy, because it's been more than a year since he's been able to play on a consistent basis.
Regardless of whether or not Green is able to play big minutes for the Caps at any point this spring, McPhee will have a difficult decision in front of him this summer, as Green will be a restricted free agent. Assuming McPhee decides to try and retain Dennis Wideman, who has been the team's best defenseman this year, moving Green will likely become a top priority.
If he does ultimately ship Green out to free up cap space for a player who can contribute on a more consistent basis, here's a look at eight defensemen who could be available, and should be targeted by McPhee.