NHL Free Agency: John Carlson More Important Signing for Caps Than Mike Green

Robert Wood@@bleachRWreachrCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 02:  John Carlson #74 of the Washington Capitals controls the puck against the New York Rangers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on May 2, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Defenseman John Carlson is now the only free-agent blueliner yet to be re-signed by the Washington Capitals after fellow defenseman Mike Green signed a contract extension on Monday worth $18.25 million over three years.

Green has been in the league since 2005-06. He has 82 goals and 251 points in 398 regular-season games with a career plus/minus rating of plus-62. In the playoffs, Mike has seven goals and 29 points in 50 career games with a plus/minus of minus-one. Green has reached the 30-goal plateau as a defender and is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist.

Carlson has only played three years in the NHL, and, like Green, has spent his entire NHL career with the Caps. He has 17 goals and 75 points in 186 regular-season games, with a plus/minus of plus-17.  Carlson has five goals and 12 points in 30 career playoff games, with a plus/minus rating of plus-three. His career high for goals in a season is nine, and he has yet to be named a finalist for the Norris Trophy.

But despite the significant disparity in experience, statistics and career milestones, Carlson is a more important free-agent signing for the Capitals than Green.

Carlson is younger than Green and thus has more years in the league ahead of him. Therefore, it is imperative that the Capitals sign him to a long-term deal to ensure they lock up the defender for the prime years of his career.

Also, Carlson is more durable than Green, who has been dealing with several injuries during the last two seasons, including multiple concussions and a nagging groin strain. As a result, Mike has played a total of 81 games in the last two seasons, along with 22 playoff games. In that same period, Carlson played in all 164 regular-season games and all 23 playoff games.

But most importantly, Carlson is a better defender than Green. The former makes up half of the Capitals' only true shutdown pair of defensemen, along with Karl Alzner. As Washington continues a philosophical shift from an emphasis on offense to defense, Carlson becomes that much more valuable.

Green continues to be a tremendous asset to the Capitals. He is a respected veteran and a valuable part of this team, and his signing was extremely important for this franchise.

But John Carlson is a cornerstone of the Capitals' defense. He symbolizes the franchise’s newfound focus on defense over offense and can help lead the team to new heights. He must be re-signed at all costs.