Earlier this week, we passed along word that LA defenseman Willie Mitchell underwent another knee surgery, one that agent Mike Liut said would sideline Mitchell for the remainder of the year but would have him ready for next season.
Now, that latter diagnosis is coming into question.
Yesterday, Kings GM Dean Lombardi said the only certainty is that Mitchell won’t play this year — anything beyond that, the club simply doesn’t know.
“At least we got some finality that he’s not coming back this year,” Lombardi told Mayors Manor. “Now I’m getting some information, and I don’t like speaking to it because I don’t have it all, but I guess it’s safe to say that there would be a legitimate concern now about whether he plays next year.”
Mitchell, 35, is in the first season of a two-year, $7 million deal. He carries an average annual cap hit of $3.5 million and, because he signed as an over-35 player (he turns 36 later this month), the Kings are on the hook for the entirety of his salary.
Furthermore, Mitchell wouldn’t be eligible for a compliance buyout this summer because he’s injured.
It’s a tough blow for a Kings team looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champs. Mitchell was an integral part of LA’s success in 2011-12, scoring a career-high 24 points while shouldering a huge workload in the playoffs, averaging 25:19 TOI per game through 20 contests.
The only King to play more during the Cup run was Drew Doughty.
As such, Lombardi was guarded about trying to predict Mitchell’s future, but made it clear there’s a lot of doubt at hand.
“Let’s just say now that [missing next season] is possible, where I wouldn’t have thought it possible [before],” Lombardi said. “We always thought, okay, well if we don’t get him back this year, this isn’t serious.
“But apparently some other things might’ve shown up. Until I get the whole story, I probably should hold off.”