August 08, 2010
If Willie Mitchell(notes) is healthy -- and Michael Russo reported last week that he has a "clean bill of health" after his concussion rehab -- the former Vancouver Canucks defensive defenseman can help a team in a big way on the blue line; and especially on the penalty kill, where he averaged 4 minutes, 4 seconds in 48 games for the 'Nucks last season.
It was reported on Friday that there's interest from Mitchell and the Red Wings about the 33-year-old defenseman joining the team, save for two issues that Ansar Khan of MLive.com spelled out on Sunday:
How much can Mitchell command? That's tricky, since he was shelved for the season with a concussion in mid-January. He earned $3.5 million last season in Vancouver and probably is seeking more than the Red Wings can afford under the salary cap, even if it's $2 million a season.
And consider this, too: In Detroit, Mitchell would have no chance of cracking the top four (Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), Brian Rafalski(notes), Brad Stuart(notes), Niklas Kronwall(notes)) this season, barring an injury. Would he want to go somewhere knowing he's cemented as the No. 5 or No. 6 defenseman and won't get as much playing time? It's doubtful.
Unless, of course, he's one of those nutty players that actually puts winning ahead of ice time, at least for a season.
(As much as it makes sense, I'd still make the Caps less "definite" than Russo does. I think they're willing to give youth a chance out of camp.)
Then there's Andreas Lilja(notes), who's still asking for about $500,000 more than the Wings are willing to ante. And there are the players already in the system (Derek Meech(notes), Doug Janik(notes), Jakub Kindl(notes) and Brendan Smith) that, via Snapshots, could be GM Ken Holland's solution for the No. 6 defenseman.
If he's healthy, Mitchell could be a last-puzzle-piece kind of player for the right team. Not trying to overrate what is essentially a solid but limited defensive player, but he does the things you need that type of player to do in the postseason ... as the Canucks can tell you, having desperately missed Mitchell while Dustin Byfuglien(notes) set up a lawn chair in the crease for the Blackhawks.
Plus, Mitchell might bring along his giant prop stick, which kills at parties.