One of the few remaining free agents of real significance is no longer on the market. The Los Angeles Kings have signed defenceman Willie Mitchell to a two-year deal that will pay him $3.5 million per season.
Mitchell, previously a shutdown specialist in Vancouver and Minnesota, is one of the league’s best at that specific role. Despite being assigned against top opponents and primarily starting in the defensive zone, Mitchell has been a plus player for seven consecutive seasons, and has a cumulative plus-40 rating over 130 games for Vancouver between 2008-10. Additionally, Mitchell’s a willing combatant and a consistently physical presence.
The one risk the Kings are assuming here is that Mitchell if fully recovered from a concussion which limited him to just 48 games in 2009-10. Given that he’s been relatively healthy over his NHL career, that he’s still near the prime of his career at 33, and that the deal is only a two-year pact, the risk has to be regarded as relatively low.
Mitchell will be a veteran presence on a blue-line featuring a wealth of highly talented younger players, and joins defensive stalwarts Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene in adding responsibility to the line-up.
A great signing for Los Angeles, and a good deal for Mitchell, who wasn’t forced to sign at a discount rate.