As far as off-season moves go, the trade that took place yesterday between the Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks barely registered. The Ducks sent 23-year old defenseman Mark Mitera to Montreal in exchange for 23-year old defenseman Mathieu Carle. Given that we know defenders take longer to develop than forwards, did either team manage to steal a diamond in the rough?
Mark Mitera has the draft pedigree here, having gone 19th overall in the 2006 Entry Draft, one spot ahead of Canadiens’ prospect David Fischer. The 6’3”, 213 lb rearguard was projected as a defensive defenseman when he was drafted, and that’s still the role he’s most likely to fill at the professional level.
Unfortunately, his stock has plummeted since draft day. Mitera played four seasons at the University of Michigan, and in his fourth year tore the ACL in his left knee on opening night. This limited his 2008-09 season to just 13 games.
In 2009-10, Mitera started his first full professional season. It was largely unmemorable; Mitera spent more than half the year in the ECHL, and played a depth role in his AHL minutes. He made the jump to the AHL full-time in 2010-11, but didn’t impress enough to be one of the nine defensemen Anaheim employed in the NHL. If not for a three-game, plus-seven stretch in March, he would have finished the AHL season at minus-22.
It’s highly improbable that Mitera will ever be the shutdown guy he was drafted as; he may eventually mature to the point that he can be employed on the third-pairing but this is a low upside acquisition for Montreal.
Mathieu Carle, taken 34 spots after Mitera, has had a better career. The QMJHL graduate just completed his fourth AHL season, has never played a game in the ECHL, and got an NHL cameo in 2009-10. He’s also coming off a dominant seven-game series against the Houston Aeros in the AHL playoffs, one that saw him score twice and add six assists as Hamilton lost the series by a single goal.
Anaheim got the superior player here. However, there is one more wrinkle.
Mathieu Carle is waiver eligible. He may or may not clear waivers, but he’s at an age and a point in his career where there’s not a bad chance that somebody snags him as a seventh defenseman. Mitera, thanks to not signing his contract until 2009, has one more season of waiver eligibility.
This to me looks like Montreal deciding that Carle wouldn’t make their team, but that a team with a weaker blue-line – like Anaheim – might snag him, and they’d rather see a player they can recall as needed in the AHL. For Anaheim, no such justification is needed – they got the better prospect, and they’re probably fairly happy about that.