What About Willie?
Hidey ho folks! It’s bee a long, long time since you last saw me grace these pages. Much has happened since. The Blackhawks apparently won the Stanley Cup – I refuse to believe it happened. And I noticed that the design changed some – apparently we all like Shane O’Brien (it’s not like, but love with me.. love to hate him). Anyhoo, lets talk about what I stopped by for – Willie Mitchell’s role with the Canucks.
Now before you run me out of town, I completely understand that he’s an unrestricted free agent who is (depending on which reports you believe) still answering imaginary doorbells. I also understand that the Canucks blueline is so deep that many of you probably think that the best Willie could hope for (assuming he is re-signed) is to be the stick guy so he could get close to the bench. But I have a reasonable theory and I want you to hear me out.
Currently the Canucks have nine defensemen under contract – Dan Hamhuis ($4.5M), Keith Ballard ($4.2M), Kevin Bieksa ($3.75M), Sami Salo ($3.5M), Alex Edler ($3.25M), Christian Ehrhoff ($3.1M), Shane O’Brien ($1.6M), Andrew Alberts ($1.05M), and Aaron Rome ($750k). Right away, we can likely assume that Alberts is either going to need to find a good real estate agent in Winnipeg or make sure his passport is up-to-date. I’m also thinking that Bieksa is trade bait (even with Salo’s injury) as his dollars don’t make sense for someone who plays with dangerously sharp things. And with Salo gone, the Canucks lose what has been their veteran stalwart.
So where does Mitchell fit in?
If he is healthy (and that’s still a might big IF), I’d find it hard to believe that Mitchell wouldn’t want a shot to return to a cup contender. Furthermore, Willie would likely understand that he’d need a one year term to prove he’s still NHL-worthy and therefore carries low risk. Lastly, the fact he is an unknown entity means his dollar value will likely be significantly more affordable than his previous contract demanded. All-in-all, I figure Mitchell could easily be had for Alberts dollars on a “proving that I still have it” style contract.
In fact, I figure that Willie will be what the Canucks thought Mathieu Schneider was going to be last season – a reliable veteran defenseman who will do whatever it takes for the good of the team and bring added depth when the going gets tough. Someone you know you can count on. A good ol’ boy.
So there you have it. Am I crazy? Or should I be expecting a call from Gillis to discuss my ideas further?
(Editor’s note: Because Mitchell has appeared in more than 400 NHL games and spent more than 100 days on injured reserve last season, he is eligible to sign a contract containing performance bonuses, as long as it is only a one-year contract. – J.J.)
I like the idea if he can prove he's healthy and we can get him cheap. Worst case scenario he comes in, plays for a couple months and get's another concussion, then Salo comes back and plays bottom pairing with O'Brien. Best case scenario he stays healthy, Salo comes back and O'Brien get's sent down and we have a bottom pairing of Salo-Mitchell.
Lots of dreamy speculation on this one from fans, but I suspect Mitchell's going to get (and take) a generous offer somewhere else if he passes his medical…a fatter contract than the Canucks can afford. He'd be stupid not to. He's got a great reputation around the league, and will be worth nearly the $3.5 million he made last year as a top-notch shutdown D. Of course we'd want him for half of that, but every other team would too.
This concerns me as a Canucks fan, as I think the team still has a real hole to fill — it was obvious after Mitchell went down last year, especially in the playoffs — they've brought in (and already have) some good all-rounder defensemen, but without Mitchell they seem to lack a real stay-at-home shutdown guy in the Regehr mould. I'm not sure Ballard fits that description.
Bloody marvelous! I've been preaching the “Keep Willie at a reduced wage” for weeks now. Considering how injury prone the Canucks are (especially considering Salo is on the roster) it seems unlikely that another signing or two will put them over the cap, even with Bieksa on the team. There are enough ways to tinker with the cap (injuries, Manitoba, etc) that it's safe to hover near the limit.
On that note, try to convince Paul Kariya to end his career here at a greatly reduced (minimum!) wage!
Agree with Jhiebert…As a Nucks fan I sure hope Willie stays, but I suspect there are 30 teams that are thinking the same thing about Willie and will offer him bigger bucks than we can afford. We can only hope given his injury he dosen't want to keep jumping teams and wants to finish what he started here