Willie Mitchell is reportedly 'symptom-free' after fighting concussion problems

williemitchellfreeagent.jpgOf the most prominent free agents waiting for a contract, Willie Mitchell’s situation is probably the most “in his hands.” Even at a slightly advanced age, the rugged shutdown defenseman would certainly receive more attention if concussion issues didn’t bring his health into serious question.

There might be good news on that front, though. Sean Zanberg of Nucks Misconduct passes along a note from Dan Murphy that the (possibly former?) Vancouver Canucks D-man is progressing nicely in the rehab process.

Dan Murphy tweeted a little while ago that Willie Mitchell has been training and skating for 18 days and is symptom-free of his nasty concussion. Murphy says that Mitchell has narrowed his choice destination from 12 interested teams down to 4. Vancouver is most likely in the mix. I am glad for Mitchell. For the Canucks to retain his services though, they are going to have to move more than just a Kevin Bieksa. On top of that, Mike Gillis still needs to shore up the Canucks’ bottom 6.

As Zanberg wrote, the Canucks are unlikely to bring Mitchell back since they already added Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard. (I also agree that a healthy Mitchell might be a better option than Ballard, but that’s not really the most relevant discussion at this point.) Even with an ailing Sami Salo opening up some room, it’s doubtful that Mitchell will fit in their cap scenario.

If he’s indeed healthy, Mitchell could be useful for just about any NHL team with the necessary cap space. Want to read more about the pluses and minuses of bringing him in? Click here.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

    Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
    AP Photo
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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

    Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

    Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

    The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

    The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

    Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (NHL.com)

    Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

    Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

    Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

    DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

    Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

    Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

    Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

    Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

    Fleury had 21 saves.

    The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

    Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

    The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

    Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

    The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

    Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

    NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.