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Willie Mitchell’s health the big x-factor in Kings’ plans

Jun 24, 2013, 11:04 AM EST

Willie Mitchell #33 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the New Jersey Devils during Game Five of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center on June 9, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.
(June 8, 2012 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

Los Angeles defenseman Willie Mitchell was a key piece in the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup championship, but he missed the entire 2013 campaign due to a knee injury. There’s no guarantee he’ll be available for the 2013-14 season either even though he’s shown signs of improvement recently.

That by itself is an unfortunate situation for the Kings to be in, but it’s compounded by the fact that the team is up against the cap and they can’t just assume that Mitchell, along with his $3.5 million cap hit, will end up on the long-term injured reserve list.

“Yeah, it kind of circles around out there because it’s hard enough making decisions when you have all the facts,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi told LA Kings Insider.

“We’re making decisions based upon assumptions we might think will be facts two months from now. So this job is hard enough when you’ve got all the facts and lord knows you guys remind us when we mess up. Now we have to make some of these decisions on assumptions that might or might not be the case, and that’s just the way it is with Willie.

“I mean, we all know how good a player this guy is, how instrumental he is, his fit with his partner there, Voynov. And now, like I said, all the indications are positive in terms of his health. But that could change tomorrow. I can’t give you a definitive answer; it’s a moving target.”

The Kings only have five blueliners signed to one-way contracts, including Mitchell, but defenseman Alec Martinez, Keaton Ellerby, and Jake Muzzin are all restricted free agents.

On top of that, Rob Scuderi is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and while Lombardi would like to re-sign the veteran defensive defenseman, he realizes that the falling cap ceiling is forcing him to make some tough calls.

  1. guyfawkes16051105 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    We knew this to be the case even before Voynov was signed and Bernier was traded (because we knew those would take place.) There doesn’t seem to be enough money to sign Scuds and gamble on Mitchell, but without any more information it appears to be exactly what has to be done. Let’s hope Solly can work a miracle, or Mitchell does come back solid, or both.

  2. canucks30 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    If he can’t play again sad to see him go out this way. One of the classiest guys in the NHL.

    Similar to another former Canuck in Mattias Ohlund who has had recurring knee problems the past few years.

    That being said, full marks to Willie for overcoming a serious concussion and coming back to haunt the Canucks last year on his way to the Stanley Cup after the Canucks decided against resigning him in 2011.

    Who knows what would have happened had they had him instead of a benched Keith Ballard in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals?

    • kingcobraman - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      so true…

  3. blomfeld - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    *** this message is for fans of the reigning Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings only ***

    STAND DOWN FRIEND !

    No doubt there are some difficult choices ahead for the NHL’s #1 rated general manager (ie: Bloomberg Business News @ May 28, 2013) but if anyone can do it then that would be Dean Lombardi. Port McNeill native Willie Mitchell was an ‘integral’ part of our glorious campaign last year and his presence was sorely missed this year for sure. But that was then and this is now. And so my hope is that Mitchell can soon see to it to ‘call it a day’ and move on with his life. He finished on top and there are likely no words which could ever describe the vindication and sheer ‘joy of redemption’ that he must have felt at the time (ie: you’ll recall that Mike Gillis got rid of this local ‘hometown’ hero here, in a manner which was consistent with someone throwing out foul-smelling garbage). Mitchell has these wonderful memories to cherish for the rest of his life. And besides, down the road I can see him eventually becoming an officer in Lombardi’s executive team of excellence.

    THANK YOU WILLIE … THANK YOU VERY MUCH !

  4. kingsforever - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    He’s actually starting to piss me off. Mitchill is good player but is such a whiner with injuries

    • guyfawkes16051105 - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      “Whiner?” Your credentials for calling an NHL player a “whiner” are what?

      • purpleguy - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        Well, he’s clearly a Kings fan — what more do you need to know?

  5. kaptaanamerica - Jun 24, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    I never like how Willie wasn’t re-signed in Vancouver. I still don’t understand why he wasn’t kept on board. We needed this guy to keep playing with Bieksa. Too bad for Canucks fans across the world. Canucks nation was fully in support of Willie. Also, he never stabbed the home province in the heart like that idiot Dr. Mark Recchi with his stupid comments.

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