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Devils must show Andy some Greene

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 10:50 AM

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Andy Greene is by far the most important free agent not named Zach Parise this summer for the New Jersey Devils. In 2009-10 Greene was named the teams unsung hero, this season it could be said that he stepped out of the shadow and into the light and became the teams defensive hero. A tall order for a New Jersey team playing with a patch work group of defenseman. Greene, a soon to be unrestricted free agent deserves to be rewarded for his efforts. Fans cannot ignore the fact that the Garden State has seen it’s share of solid puck moving defenseman make a mass exodus in recent years. It’s now imperative that GM Lou Lamoriello lock up Greene long term.

The Trenton, Michigan native is another one of Lamoriello’s famous reclamation projects that paid off. Greene played four years at Miami University and led all Red Hawks defenseman in scoring in each one of those seasons. He racked up 114 points (27g 87a) in his 159 collegiate games. His natural ability to score earned him several honors including CCHA First Team All-Star from 2004-2006 and NCAA West First All-American team in 2006. Despite a solid career in college, Greene went undrafted. Then, as he has done so many times before, Lamoriello snatched up the 24 year old, signing him to his first pro contract in April of 2006.

Given the fact that defensive depth has always been one of the Devils strengths, it took a little while for Greene to earn a spot on the roster. Right after he signed, he joined the Devil’s former AHL affiliate, the Lowell Devils (team moved to Albany in 2010-11) after training camp. It was really not until the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs that Greene made a name for himself. When the rosters were expanded for the post season run, Greene was added. He was not expected to play but an injury to Colin White was the break the rookie defenseman needed. Greene filled in nicely, earning solid ice time and playing well enough to earn a permanent spot when White came back, replacing Oduya instead.

Even with some flashes of excitement, Dandy Andy didn’t exactly take the league by storm. Actually, he was sometimes incredibly painful to watch. In fact I’d often find myself cringing at the site of the diminutive defender protecting the point on the power play. More than one puck found it’s way over his stick headed in the wrong direction but Greene has grown into the position and become a reliable defender. In my opinion, Andy Greene has become the most important part of the Devils defensive corps.

In fact, he may be the single most important free agent defenseman for New Jersey in recent memory. Yes that’s right, you read that correctly, now let me explain. In 2005, Scott Niedermayer shunned a more lucrative offer with New Jersey to join his brother Rob in Anaheim. No problem for the Devils because Brian Rafalski and Paul Martin were more then capable of picking up the offensive slack from the back end. Two seasons later, Rafalski bolted for the Motor City; but again no worries for the red and black with Martin, Johnny Oduya and a young Greene to carry the load. Last season, yet another one got away when Martin accepted a better offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Oduya was shipped to Atlanta in the blockbuster trade that brought Ilya Kovalchuk’s talents to Newark. But, still the Devils persevered and rebuilt the entire defense centered around Greene and newly acquired Henrik Tallinder and getting a large chunks of the workload. Now if the Devils can’t keep Greene and he too walks, there will be nobody left to pick up the pieces. Not good news for fans that are used to winning and winning with a solid defense.

The 5’11” 190 lb defender just finished out his 2 year 1.475 million dollar deal which had a cap hit around 750k a season. If you compare that to other blue liners in the league with similar stats, it’s quite obvious that he’s a steal at those numbers. By comparison, Martin just finished his first year of the 5 year 25 million deal he inked last off season with the Penguins. His 24 point (3g 21a) campaign is just one more than Greene amassed on a New Jersey team with almost no offensive fire power. In fact, despite missing Crosby and Malkin for most of the year, the Pens outscored the Devs, 238 to 174! Yikes! Numbers like that make Greene look like Bobby Orr! (Ok not quite)

New Jersey has over 52 million dollars locked up in 17 players and that’s not including Greene, Parise and a viable back up goalie for Martin Brodeur. It will take some serious salary cap wizardry on the part of Lamoriello to put a better product on the ice come October. Greene will command a serious salary increase and has expressed a desire to remain with the Devils. Based on the money some of his peers are earning, he could command close to 3 million a year. Expect Greene to take a discount to remain in New Jersey, but the deal should be at least 3 years. But as with his predecessors we have heard that tune before. It’s imperative that the ink on a new deal be dry long before July 1st. The ball is squarely in Lamoriello side of the court.

Fun Facts:

2010-2011 Salary Comparisons for Defenseman with similar stats.

1. Paul Martin Pit – 24 pts (3g 21a) 5 mil
2. Dan Hamhuis Van – 23pts (6g 17a) 5 mil
3. Mike Green Was – 24 pts (8g 16a) 5 mil
4. Marek Zidlicky Min – 24pts (7g17a) 4.2 mil
5. Pavel Kubina TB – 23 pts (4g 19a) 3.5 mil
7. Kris Russell CMB – 23 pts (5g 18a) 1.3 mil
8. Andy Greene NJD – 23pts (4g 19a) 750k

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