Where in the world is Willie Mitchell? A look at how bonuses could help him land in San Jose

These days it's all I can think about. That elusive top three defenseman the Sharks oh so desperately need, that one cog that would immediately becomes a key to the success during the franchise's upcoming 2010-2011 campaign, that one piece who would immediately vault the Sharks from a contender with some glaring issues into a contender that could arguably be considered the best team in the Western Conference.

I've covered how he matches up against other free agents here, his concussion issues and how valuable he truly is here, and who the Sharks are currently competing for his services here. There's just about no new information to explore right now on Big Willie Style in terms of potential signings , but here I am anyways, waxing poetic about something that just won't leave me alone.

I'm pretty sure I've developed a crush on a 33 year old man.

At any rate, one thing I realized last Friday was that Mitchell will qualify for bonuses considering he spent more than 100 days on the injured reserve last season. After sustaining a concussion on January 16th, Mitchell missed a total of 115 days during the year, including the Vancouver Canucks playoff run that saw them advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs. From article 50 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

(1) "Performance Bonuses" means any Bonuses set forth in a Player's SPC, the payment of which is contingent on the Player's achievement of some agreed-upon benchmark(s) related to his performance as a Player or his Club's performance during a particular League Year.

(2) Performance Bonuses shall be allowable under this Agreement only for:

(i) Players with Entry Level SPCs under Art icle 9 of this Agreement;

(ii) Players aged 35 or older as of June 30 prior to the League Year in which the SPC is to be effective, who have signed a one-year SPC for that League Year; and

(iii) Players who are "400-plus game Players" for pension purposes, and who: (i) in the last year of their most recent SPC, spent 100 days or more on the injured reserve list; and (ii) have signed a one-year SPC for the current or upcoming League Year.

>> Collective Bargaining Agreement

Mitchell has played 586 games in his NHL career, which qualifies him for performance bonuses during 2010-2011. This should appeal to Doug Wilson for a couple of reasons.

The first is that it keeps a player, who despite showing no signs of lingering concussion issues, a low-risk signing considering the fact that if he shows symptoms during the year and is unable to play, San Jose would have put a limited amount of cash into their investment. The second is that it keeps his cap hit low-- teams are able to exceed the cap ceiling via bonuses, with the penalty for going over (i.e. player(s) hitting those bonuses and pushing the team over the upper limit) occurring during the following season.

Secondly, with the CBA stipulating that one-year deal is required if a contract contains these types of bonuses, it means that the Sharks would still have roster flexibility next offseason if a) prospects from Worcester are pushing their way onto the team and/or b) Mitchell doesn't live up to expectations. While Mitchell's desire for a one-year deal could be a selling point for him (generally a player will want to ink a multi-year contract after an injury considering the fact that NHL contracts are guaranteed), with the way this summer has gone for free agents, it might be the only option Mitchell has whether he's negotiating with the Capitals, Sharks, Red Wings, or Canucks.

Extending an incentive-laced contract with bonuses (likely games played, average TOI etc.) is just another option for Doug Wilson to use in his attempt to sign the only high impact free agent defenseman remaining on the market. And at this point in the offseason, where the blueline still has some massive holes, it's another tool that could help put San Jose over the top during 2010 and beyond.

Go Sharks.