All signs are pointing to the Willie Mitchell making a decision on where to play this week. Mitchell has worked out for the Canucks, Sharks, Kings and Capitals this week. One would assume that he is undergoing physicals to prove his health to these teams before they tender him an offer. He has reportedly already been offered a two-year deal by the Los Angeles Kings, but the price is not yet known. Cap-wise, the Kings are by far in the best position. The Sharks could also fit-in Mitchell with relative ease, that is if they stick with Niittymaki and Greiss in net. The Capitals and Canucks are both in tight against the cap as it is, and would probably need to get creative.
The risks with Mitchell are obvious. He’s 33 years old, an age in which a lot of players start to have rapid decline in their production. Mitchell also has a concussion history, which poses another risk.
The payout however, could be high. At his best, Mitchell is one of the top ten shutdown defencemen in the league. He regularly plays against the opposing team’s top lines and is always a plus player. He’s also a superb penalty killer.
So what can the Canucks afford? For me, term is much less important than cap number, so long as the term doesn’t get too ridiculous. Teams will be reluctant to give Mitchell more than a one year deal, but I think the Canucks can afford that gamble. If Mitchell really craps out, they can always park him in the minors for year two. If he gets a career ending concussion in year one, then he will be on long term injury reserve and his salary won’t count anyway.
Now the cap number. As it stands already the Canucks are over the cap, so they will need to move bodies. I believe that getting Willie Mitchell back somewhere in the $2.5-2.75 million range would be doable for the team. The much talked about Kevin Bieksa ($3.75) is clearly trade-bait and Andrew Alberts ($1.1 million) could be shipped to Manitoba. It sounds like Sami Salo will miss at least three months to start the season, which will give the Canucks partial relief of his $3.5 million salary.
Below is a potential payroll (thanks to CapGeek.com) that includes a full roster (23 players) that assumes Cody Hodgson makes the team, has Andrew Alberts playing in Manitoba and Kevin Bieksa traded. The proposed payroll shows the team being $1.49 million over the cap, which is alright because it doesn’t take into account Sami Salo being on long term injury reserve.
So it’s easy right? Well, easy unless someone offers Mitchell $3+ million or a three year deal. If they do, expect Willie to walk. If the offers are close, I believe Mitchell would choose Vancouver.
What would you do? Trade Bieksa? Keep him? Sign Mitchell? How many years, how big a cap hit? Let us know in the comments section. Until then, here’s something to watch while you ponder those decisions: