Willie Mitchell symptom-free after 18 days of skating; Sharks reportedly interested in his services

In news that could only be considered a positive thing for a Sharks team in desperate need of a blueline addition, former Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell has reportedly been symptom-free for the last eighteen days after sustaining a concussion during January of last season.

Dan Murphy tweeted a little while ago that Willie Mitchell has been training and skating for 18 days and is symptom-free of his nasty concussion. Murphy says that Mitchell has narrowed his choice destination from 12 interested teams down to 4. Vancouver is most likely in the mix. I am glad for Mitchell. For the Canucks to retain his services though, they are going to have to move more than just a Kevin Bieksa. On top of that, Mike Gillis still needs to shore up the Canucks' bottom 6.

>> Nucks Misconduct

Attentive readers will remember an article from earlier this offseason where I looked at Mitchell's injury, how it affected his job offers on July 1st, and what he brings to the table when healthy. Assuming that Murphy's information is correct and Mitchell is indeed healthy and skating without any nagging symptoms, one has to think Doug Wilson has made a phone call to Allan Walsh expressing interest in his client.

Could the Sharks be one of the four teams Mitchell is interested in? According to Sportsnet.ca, it appears that they are:

The Port McNeill, B.C., native has narrowed it down to four teams including the Canucks; the other teams are believed to be the Red Wings, Sharks and Capitals.

>> Sportsnet.ca

At this juncture I think we can rule out the Canucks as being a viable option for Mitchell's services-- they're currently loaded on the blueline with eight legitimate NHL defenseman, and have negative $2.16MM in cap space remaining. If Bieksa is moved that would clear some space, but as Nucks Misconduct mentioned, a priority for Gillis will be to shore up his bottom six forward group. They have likely moved on unless Mitchell decides to take a massive paycut from the $3.5MM he made last season.

As for the remaining three, all are legitimate contenders for his services-- the Red Wings have reportedly signed Mike Modano to a one year deal worth $1.25MM, but have enough cap space in order to squeeze in Mitchell if they desire to do so. Washington is in desperate need of defensive help with sufficient cap space, and San Jose has weaknesses on the backend with enough room to work Mitchell in as well.

I don't think there's any doubt that Mitchell would have found a home on July 1st if there weren't questions about his concussion symptoms-- only Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara, and Marc Staal faced higher quality of competition with fewer goals against at five on five last season, putting him in the upper echelon of players you want to see take a shift during the third period of a playoff game. I put him behind only Paul Martin, Dan Hamhuis, and Zbynek Michalek before Free Agency began this summer, and with all of those players finding homes on the first day, it's safe to say that Mitchell is probably the most obtainable target out there for the Sharks at this juncture. As well as one who could get you the most value.

The fact that he would come in and be able to log big minutes in both shorthanded and even strength situations makes him a very attractive target to replace Rob Blake, something that was covered extensively a month ago:

Willie Mitchell vs. Rob Blake

Player GP G/60 PTS/60 GFON/60 GFOFF/60 GAON/60 GAOFF/60 Qualcomp PK TOI
08-09 Rob Blake
0.22 (2nd)
1.22 (1st)
2.82 (1st)
1.97 (1st)
1.83 (2nd)
1.97 (6th)
0.004 (2nd)
2:30 (2nd)

Willie Mitchell
0.13 (4th)
0.88 (1st)
2.93 (2nd)
2.43 (2nd)
1.93 (2nd)
2.32 (3rd)
0.058 (1st)
4:04 (1st)
09-10 Rob Blake
0.11 (4th)
1.06 (2nd)
2.35 (6th)
2.89 (6th)
1.79 (2nd)
2.27 (2nd)
0.042 (1st)
2:53 (2nd)

Willie Mitchell
0.29 (2nd)
0.71 (5th)
2.85 (4th)
2.73 (4th)
2.14 (3rd)
2.06 (8th)
0.062 (1st)
4:15 (1st)

Those are great numbers for a defenseman, with Mitchell giving the Sharks exactly what they need-- a legitimate top three defenseman who can go up against the opponents best night after night. Furthermore, it allows Doug Wilson to go after the puck moving defenseman (i.e. Tomas Kaberle) that he craves, setting up a situation where each pairing has both a shutdown and offensive blueliner. The balance on the backend would be phenomenal, and with young players like Jamie McGinn and Logan Couture expected to make strides amongst the forwards, would give the Sharks great balance throughout their entire lineup.

It's an intriguing possibility, and one I wholeheartedly hope ends up happening. The upside here, especially with Mitchell fully healthy, is just too much to pass up.

Go Sharks.