The Willie Mitchell Market keeps heating up; Defenseman visits Capitals' Iceplex

Thumbnail image for williemitchellcelebrates.jpgWhile 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.

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    Kings grab goalie insurance by signing Budaj

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Jhonas Enroth #1 and Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings stretch before a game against the Arizona Coyotes at STAPLES Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
    via Los Angeles Kings
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    In slightly less interesting Los Angeles Kings news than the latest in the Mike Richards fiasco, the team handed Peter Budaj a one-year, two-way deal on Friday.

    The veteran goalie’s contract pays $575K on the NHL level and $100K in the AHL (though it’s $150K guaranteed), according to Hockey’s Cap.

    At the moment, it sounds like Budaj will be third on the Kings’ goalie depth chart. That says as much about how things have been going lately for Los Angeles than Budaj’s work on a PTO.

    As noted above, one of the more significant moves in Budaj’s favor came when the New York Islanders claimed Jean-Francois Berube off of waivers this week.

    The Kings actually waived Budaj before signing him, so this has to be a relief to a goalie with a fairly robust resume as a backup.

    All apologies to Budaj, but it’s probably true that the Kings would prefer not to see him at the NHL level very often in 2015-16.

    Kings, NHLPA announce settlement in Richards grievance

    Los Angeles Kings v New York Rangers

    The Los Angeles Kings announced today that they have “reached an agreement with Mike Richards to resolve the grievance filed in relation to the termination of his NHL Standard Players Contract. The terms are agreeable to all parties.”

    The club said that it will not be commenting further “on the terms” of the settlement.

    The NHLPA released a similar statement.

    It was reported earlier in the week that a settlement was close to being reached; however, it wasn’t clear what salary-cap penalties the Kings would incur.

    We’re starting to find out some details now:

    How the final numbers differ from what the Kings would have incurred if they’d bought Richards out will be interesting to see. And if there are differences, how will they be justified?

    Stay tuned.