Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
It’s probably not a coincidence that, on the same day Willie Mitchell signed with the Los Angeles Kings, Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) had a piece on the increasing possibility of Kevin Bieksa staying with the Vancouver Canucks (more on that thought in a separate post later). On some level, I think most of us knew (and Mike Gillis as well) that there was a market for Mitchell – concussion history be damned – and unless he was willing to leave a lot of money on the table, the chance of him re-signing with the Canucks was extremely slim. $7 million over two years is a lot of money, and given their cap situation, there was simply no way for the Canucks to offer him anything remotely close to that.
I’m going to miss Willie. As those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while will know, I have a soft spot for players from BC and Willie is no exception. I’ve loved him since his Minnesota days – even when he was going head-to-head with Todd Bertuzzi – and I got his jersey almost as soon as he signed here.
More importantly, the Canucks are going to miss Willie. In him, the Canucks had a true shutdown defenseman would could log 25-plus minutes against the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin, Iginla, Thornton, etc. – in the last four years, no one else on this team played tougher minutes against the opposing teams’ best players and did so on a nightly basis. They had a veteran leader who was a calming influence on the ice and a positive influence off it. He was good with the media and active in the community. The Canucks really couldn’t have asked more from him as a player and it’ll be interesting to see who among the new core of defensemen – Hamhuis, Ballard, Edler and Ehrhoff – can step in (or step up) to that role.
Good on the Kings for ponying up for Willie. As much as I hate to admit it, adding Willie to a group that already includes Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Rob Scuderi and a healthy Matt Greene gives them a damn deep defense. Certainly, having Willie back there rather than Randy Jones makes them a much harder group to play against.
Good luck in LA, Willie. And PS – tell that Doughty kid you want his #8.