Willie Mitchell has been making the rounds among teams that have shown interest in signing him for this upcoming season. Today was his turn to work out with the Washington Capitals at the team’s headquarters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, V.A.
Because of Mitchell’s injury history, particularly with concussions, several teams want to put him through tests to make sure he is 100% healthy before they sign him. He has already worked out with the Los Angeles Kings, and the San Jose Sharks as well as the Vancouver Canucks are still in the mix to sign the veteran shutdown defenseman.
Mitchell would be a great fit for the Caps. Something they are lacking is a physical, veteran presence on the blue line. The price isn’t necessarily a concern because the Caps still have around 5 million in space, but George McPhee will want to keep it conservative since he likes to have the cap flexibility to make changes to the team mid season.
Last season Mitchell scored four goals and added eight assists for 12 points in 48 games. But teams aren’t looking to sign him for his offensive output. The Capitals already have the best offensive defenseman in the league in Mike Green, but Mitchell has something they don’t. In those 48 games, Mitchell recorded 48 penalty minutes and is always a physical presence in the defensive zone. That grit that is so valuable come playoff time is something the Caps have been lacking on the backend.
Not only would Mitchell’s skills be put to good use by the Capitals, but his experience could easily help bring along the defensive skills of the Caps’ young D-men. Green, Jeff Schultz, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson are all under 25. Both Schultz and Alzner seem to be taking paths toward becoming shutdown players, and the presence of Mitchell can only help improve the defensive skills of the whole blueline.
Mitchell could help turn the Capitals into a Stanley Cup winning team, but the other three teams have shortcomings at defense as well. Both San Jose and L.A. have few defensemen on their current rosters, and Vancouver isn’t going to let Kevin Bieska’s better half walk away without a fight.
With big defensive names getting snatched up early this free agent season, Willie Mitchell has become quite a hot commodity. He would be a great fit for the Capitals and would fill a much needed role. The Caps may have plenty of defensemen in the system, but none are the caliber or style of Mitchell. He would add yet another dynamic to a team that lapped the competition during the regular season last year. The Caps have been quiet this offseason, but that could all change as Mitchell inches closer to making a decision.