TAMPA — Shortly after Red Wings defenseman Mike Green scored the only two goals for the Atlantic Division in the NHL All-Star Game final here last month, coach Jeff Blashill flipped out his cellphone.
Blashill is good buddies with Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who also happened to coach the Atlantic Division team. So it didn't take long for Blashill to deliver a friendly dagger via text.
"I said, 'Next year I'll send you more Red Wings,'" Blashill quipped.
How about he does that by the Feb. 26 trade deadline? The Lightning is looking to bolster its blue line, and Green, 32, is among the potential targets. Green, in the final year of his contract, would likely be a rental if he is traded.
Could Green be a fit in Tampa Bay?
The only two defensemen general manager Steve Yzerman has acquired in deadline deals were Eric Brewer in 2010-11 and Braydon Coburn in 2014-15. Each had at least a year left on his contract. The only rental Yzerman has acquired is Ryan Callahan in 2014, though he was part of the forced Marty St. Louis trade to the Rangers. The Lightning ended up signing Callahan long term that summer.
Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov dominated the league in the first couple months of the season. #TBLightning @TBLightning #RedWings @TB_Times @TBTimes_JSmith https://t.co/DlBQ0lcJj7— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 15, 2018
A lot of this depends on the price. Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press he's looking for assets and to open roster spots for younger players, so a package involving a draft pick and a prospect could work. A defense prospect is more of a priority for Detroit.
"I look at every player, whether it's a rental or has term on their contract, what does it cost?" Yzerman said. "Does it make sense for us?"
In some ways, Green makes sense. He's a veteran right-shot defenseman with playoff experience. He's a very good puck-mover and creator of offense, which would fit into the Lightning's system. He'd be an upgrade on the right side over Andrej Sustr and Jake Dotchin, whose play has dropped off.
And Green has a fan in the Lightning coach.
"He's very cerebral," Cooper said. "You watched in the All-Star Game, the way he's scoring, the way he can move the puck, it's just effortless. He's somebody that's been doing it for a long time in this league. He seems to be able to create everywhere he goes. He's been in the league for a while, but he's sure a hell of a player still."
The Lightning doesn't need much help on the power play, which ranked second in the league at 23.7 percent entering Thursday's game against the Red Wings. The power play has been a strength for Green, who has quarterbacked units in Washington and Detroit.
"It's just the way he sees the ice," Callahan said. "You see what he did in Washington. I remember playing against them in the playoffs and he'd tear us apart pretty good when I was in New York. That was his biggest asset, the way he sees the ice and his speed, what he can do with the puck."
Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader played against Green during Green's 10 seasons in Washington, from 2005-15. He has gotten a new appreciation of his as his teammate.
"You knew he was that good," Abdelkader said. "But seeing it in practice everyday, as far as skill goes, he's right up there with the best I've seen."
The biggest problem for the Lightning has been giving up too many goals and chances. And this is where it gets interesting.
Green is known for his vision, hands, skill and shot. But Green is not a shutdown defenseman like the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh (a more expensive target) or even the Lightning's Anton Stralman. Green's relative shots against per 60 minutes is 3.98, the statistics website naturalstattrick.com says. That means Detroit gives up four more shots per 60 minutes when Green is on the ice. It also allows 2.5 more scoring chances per hour when he's on the ice.
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The only Lightning defenseman with a higher relative shots against per 60 is Slater Koekkoek (4.37), who plays limited minutes. By comparison, Dan Girardi is 2.33, Mikhail Sergachev 1.28, Victor Hedman .47.
This doesn't mean Green is a bad defensive player or that he wouldn't be an upgrade on the right side on the Lightning's second or third pair. Could see a Hedman-Stralman, Sergachev-Girardi, Coburn-Green top-six. You never know a pair's chemistry or fit until they play together.
And Red Wings who watch him play every game say Green is a better defender than perception indicates.
"He competes extremely hard in his own end," Blashill said. "And I don't know if that was a little bit of a knock on him. But it's totally not true. He competes really hard. He picked up concepts defensively that helped him become a better defender. When he skates forward and uses his stick real good he's a really good defender on the rush. In the zone, he's really learned how to handle his net front responsibilities. He's been an excellent player for us."
Green is the first to admit it's not easy to balance the offensive and defensive part of the game as a defenseman. "The last three years I really focused on it as far as the defensive aspect," Green said. "It's also playing here in Detroit, they play a very defensive, right-side-of-the-puck game, so you sort of adopt in that."
Green has a no-trade clause but said he's "open minded" and has been impressed by the Lightning.
"They're an incredible team," Green said. "They've got all the pieces."
Could Green be a missing one?
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.