Willie Mitchell signs with Los Angeles
2 years, $3.5MM a pop.
2) That might be one year too many for a guy coming off a concussion, but if Mitchell remains healthy during the next two years, there is no argument worth listening to that should ever make you think he won't be worth the cash. As I mentioned before, only Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara, and Marc Staal faced a higher quality of competition last season while giving up less goals against at even strength. He's a premier shutdown defenseman that immediately turns Los Angeles into a legitimate top five team in the West (Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose, and Chicago being the other big guns). The Pacific Division just got very interesting.
3) Again, back to the concussion issues. God forbid Mitchell take another lump this year and be forced out of action, but if he does, Los Angeles puts him on the LTIR and suddenly has $3.5MM in cap space to work with if they want to add another blueliner. The notion that just because he's one hit away from the end of a career affects nothing but the amount of money the organization will be paying out of pocket for his services-- in other words, the injury risk seems a bit overblown to me, and factors very little into my assessment of the deal considering cap space immediately is freed up if he goes on LTIR.
4) My guess is that Doug Wilson wasn't the only one in the Sharks organization who dipped his toes into negotiations with Mitchell and his agent. I would assume that Sharks upper management cited their concerns over Mitchell's injury history and had some sort of sway (however small) over how high San Jose was willing to go in the bidding war. It's unlikely they were willing to take a plunge into concussion territory and risk having to pay a guy $3.5MM to sit in the press box for the next two years if he gets injured.
5) Mitchell is everything the Sharks need, and he was a free agent. This is a basic idea, but one I feel needs to be stated here-- your roster improves with the signing of Mitchell and you lose nothing except Jay Leach (who would be demoted to Worcester and put San Jose under the salary cap ceiling). That's the beauty of a free agent signing-- the loss is only cap space, and not roster players/futures.
6) Am I surprised the Sharks balked at a two year deal worth $3.5MM per? Not especially. Wilson and Co. are notorious for playing it close to the vest during free agency, with the GM himself citing "the frenzy" of free agency that causes teams to overpay for players. The term was likely the issues that made the team balk, and as much as it hurts to say, I can respect that. I don't agree with it, but I can respect it.
7) Along those lines, there's no telling if $3.5MM for two years would have even got Mitchell to come to San Jose-- maybe he wanted to live in Los Angeles, enjoyed the culture of the Kings dressing room more than the Sharks, or felt more comfortable with their coaching and training staff. There are a lot of factors involved which we have no idea of.
9) Doug Wilson has enough depth on his blueline. The Sharks still need an impact top three guy to come in and log heavy minutes, which will cost you at the trade table.
10) Right now, right here, at this moment in time, San Jose has two legitimate trade pieces to work with if they want to acquire a top three defenseman-- Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe. A top three defenseman will likely run you a roster player and futures, so if you're looking to make an upgrade, it's probably safe to say that these are the two pieces who will be involved in negotiations.
11) Trading Douglas Murray leaves you with a hole on the blueline-- again, back to the free agency point, signing a guy costs you nothing but cap space, while trading for a player costs you talent within the organization. If Murray leaves, Wallin is still in the top four (which I am not a fan of). Either that, or you pray Jason Demers can really turn the corner this year defensively and get you twenty minutes a night.
12) That is, unless Wilson finds a bargain deal in free agency and signs a guy like Mike Mottau or Paul Mara. Then you have enough top four talent to move Murray and futures for a top three blueliner, pushing Wallin to the bottom pairing and restoring order to the Force.
12) Trading Ryane Clowe probably makes the most sense. He has more value than Murray, has term left on his contract (which is a big plus for teams who are rebuilding and shopping their best defenseman), and clears enough space for the Sharks to go after free agent wingers like Owen Nolan. That being said, it still opens up a hole in the top six of the Sharks, meaning Logan Couture gets bumped off that third line and joins Joe Pavelski on the second. I'm completely fine with that provided San Jose gets a third line center to fill Couture's hole*.
*You gotta pay the troll toll, if you wanna fill that boy's hole.
13) Another option is to extend another offer sheet to a guy like Marc Staal (NYR) or Matt Niskanen (DAL). The Stars are in a load of financial trouble right now and could experience some issues matching an offer, while the Rangers would dump Redden into the minors and match Staal's. Either way, that's another option before the season begins before we focus exclusively on potential trades.
14) The butterflies in my stomach have turned to scorpions, hope swallowed by the sun. My wound is no longer geography, but the cautious tongue of my benevolent overlord.
Farewell my prince. Best of luck in smoggy Los Angeles.