While Dan Hamhuis, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin got the big bucks this summer, the tide-changing unrestricted free agent defenseman is still – in my opinion – Willie Mitchell. Before you assume I’m going to call NHL GMs nuts for passing him up, there’s a perfectly simple explanation why he’s still on the market: concussion issues and increasing age make him a bigger risk than those younger players.
Still, with reports surfacing that his health is improving and he’s showing signs that he could be the shutdown blueliner he once was, the Mitchell Market is heating up considerably. Yesterday, Joe went over the teams who should consider going after the positionally sound D-man, but now we’re finding a little fire to accompany some of that smoke.
Corey Masisak reports that Mitchell visited the Washington Capitals’ “Iceplex” today while Sportsnet reinforces a Tweet Joe passed along yesterday.
Sources tell Sportsnet that after working out with the Los Angeles Kings last week, Mitchell has apparently showcased his health to the San Jose Sharks and his club for the last four seasons, the Vancouver Canucks.
A (reasonably) healthy Mitchell would be a considerable upgrade for all of those teams, particularly the Capitals. I think people beat up on the team’s defense a little too much – after all, you’re going to give up a bit more if you play a devil may care style anyway – but there’s no doubt that Washington could use the type of “glue guy” who can take time and space away from opponents in crunch time. The Sharks could use a big defenseman after losing Rob Blake while the Kings would have two great defensive-first guys (Michell and Rob Scuderi) to accompany the precocious youth in their own end (Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson).
Last year, I couldn’t understand why Manny Malhotra (and another Manny [Fernandez]) lingered on the free agent market. This time around, Mitchell is that guy. I’m not sure I’d hand him anything more than a two-year contract, but he could be a subtle but pivotal different maker for all of those teams mentioned above.