Report: Defenseman Willie Mitchell cleared to play, seeks suitors

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williemitchell1.jpgWord comes today from the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo that free agent defenseman Willie Mitchell has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion at the hands of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin last season. While that’s important news to teams looking for veteran defensive help (The Sharks, Red Wings and Capitals have been rumored to have interest) there’s even more important news for any team interested that might be operating with limited funds on the salary cap. Russo explains for us.

The former Wild defenseman, I’m told, actually could sign a contract with performance bonuses because he spent 100 days on injured reserve last year — including the playoffs. The CBA doesn’t spell out whether the 100 days is only during the regular season, so it appears after inquiries from Mitchell and the player interested teams, the league will allow this type of contract. I bet it’ll be for a base of $1 or $1.5 million on a one-year deal plus bonuses.

This is a highly important caveat for teams like Detroit and San Jose who might be looking to save a few bucks to get other players signed down the road. While the bonuses could eventually be a pain (just think of what happened to the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs this off-season) the bonus issue might only turn out to be an eventual problem for either the Canucks (who are also still interested) and the Red Wings. Teams like San Jose or Washington still have enough breathing room under the cap to not have to sweat performance bonuses.

What Mitchell can provide on the blue line is a guy with a strong defensive mind and tough character to provide a little bit of snarl, something that would go over very well with any of the teams that are rumored to be interested in him.