One of the last things you’d expect from a team lacking depth at center is a deal sending away one of their depth pivots. Well, welcome to the Montreal Canadiens ladies and gentlemen… and so long Torrey Mitchell. We hardly knew you… this season at least.
Mitchell the Odd Man Out
Mitchell was one of the odd men out on a team with a fellow defensively responsible bottom-six type, Phillip Danault, as its arguable No. 1 center. Mitchell only dressed for 11 games with the Habs this season (going pointless as a fourth-liner), regularly serving as a healthy scratch. In spite of suffering through an illness that recently had him in day-to-day condition, Mitchell was for all intents and purposes ready to play.
In that sense, this trade, which sends Mitchell to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick, is good for all involved.
The Canadiens have acquired Los Angeles’ 5th-round conditional pick in 2018, in return for forward Torrey Mitchell.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 23, 2017
In spite of being traded away from his hometown team, Mitchell will presumably get a chance to play regularly again. If not, he’s at least getting a realistic shot at the playoffs and more, with the Kings in contention in the Pacific Division, just behind the first-place Las Vegas Golden Knights.
That’s more than can be said for anyone still on the Habs. With 19 points in 23 games, the Canadiens stand six points behind the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, who own the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots. The Detroit Red Wings own the last Atlantic Division spot and are four points up on the Habs, but they also have one game in hand. As explained by Elliotte Friedman, teams four or more points out of a playoff spot on November 1 rarely save their seasons.
Canadiens Looking to Future?
As a result, the Canadiens are probably starting to look to the future, as is probably the wisest course of action. They do lose Mitchell, but he would have become an unrestricted free agent. Meanwhile, the fifth-rounder will become the fourth-round pick the Canadiens initially gave the Kings last season for Dwight King, if Los Angeles makes the playoffs.
Seeing as that’s pretty likely at this stage and the Habs probably wouldn’t have re-signed Mitchell, it essentially translates into them getting King for nothing. Considering his stat line with the Canadiens (one goal in 23 total games and a by-all-accounts ineffective stint as a depth forward), that’s most fitting.
The Canadiens do get Mitchell’s cap hit ($1.2 million) off the books. For a team with a projected $25 million in cap space at this season’s trade deadline, it likely doesn’t speak to any big moves to come for a playoff push, though.
Ironically, it does speak to the Habs’ reversal of fortune since last season’s trade deadline. At that point, general manager Marc Bergevin had been in the process of acquiring depth forwards (King, Andreas Martinsen and Steve Ott) in preparation for a long playoff run that never materialized. Regardless of the fact Mitchell wasn’t playing regularly, the Canadiens have just signaled to their fan base that they won’t have use for him down the stretch.
That’s pretty significant, even if the trade itself is minor in the grand scheme of things.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.