There are reports out there that Willie Mitchell, who is still looking for a contract for the upcoming season, has already worked out for the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, and is supposed to be working out with the Washington Capitals as we speak. There are also reports that the Kings are ready to offer (or have already offered) him a two-year deal, but Willie, a good ol’ BC boy, is hoping to stay in Vancouver and is waiting to see Mike Gillis’ offer first.
The rumored two-year term may be the key to Willie’s future. The fact is, Willie is one bad hit away from a career-ending concussion and a two-year deal – or any multi-year deal for that matter – gives him and his family some additional security. It’s also a term I’m not sure the Canucks are willing to commit.
Given the Canucks’ current cap situation, I would imagine their preference is to sign Willie to a one-year contract with a relatively-lower base salary (and thus cap hit) and performance bonuses (the cap hit of which they can defer to the following season); they can’t structure the contract similarly on a multi-year deal. If Willie re-signs with the Canucks, he will have most likely foregone more dollars and/or more term from another team.
Also, while it’s clear that having a Willie Mitchell on this year’s roster will do nothing but help this team contend, I’m not sure his roster spot will be available next year. Contractually, the Canucks have three of their top-four defensemen (Hamhuis, Ballard and Edler) signed for the 2011/2012 season, and I’m sure Gillis will make every effort to extend a fourth (Ehrhoff). Rome is also signed; Salo, Bieksa (if he somehow finishes this season with the team) and SOB are UFAs. That’s potentially five defensemen signed for next season. Does Gillis see Willie as part of this group next season or does he want to save a roster spot for a Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve or Chris Tanev? Or if the kids aren’t ready for full-time NHL duty, does Gillis bide time with another year with Willie or does he make a pitch for a Zdeno Chara, Andrei Markov, Tomas Kaberle or Mark Giordano, all of whom are scheduled to be UFAs?
I don’t think it’s any secret that Willie wants to stay in Vancouver and I think Gillis has at least indicated to him that the Canucks are interested in re-signing him. The question is whether the lure of playing at home and helping to bring a first Stanley Cup to his home province outweighs the financial benefits of doing the same somewhere else.