Willie Mitchell has done everything the Los Angeles Kings have asked him to do and then some. The 37-year-old veteran defenseman spends much of his time doing what many perceive to be thankless tasks such as blocking shots and clearing the front of the net. These thankless tasks helped the Kings win a lot of hockey games during Mitchell’s four-year tenure with the club, culminating, of course, in not one, but two Stanley Cups in that time span.
Given the Kings’ salary cap situation, coupled with Mitchell’s age and the need to infuse youth on the blue line, his tenure with the team will be coming to a close as the team will not be offering the pending free agent a new contract. Hockey is a business and decisions have to be made that are more about the bottom line than emotional sentiments. That is the realty of operating a hockey team. In the case of Mitchell, there’s no question Dean Lombardi, Darryl Sutter and company would love to keep him on board, but doing so wouldn’t be what’s best for the Kings in the long or short term.
With prospects such as Derek Forbort and Brayden McNabb in the system, the Kings could look to replace Mitchell from within. This, along with the team re-signing fellow defenseman Matt Greene, creates a surplus of defensemen, meaning Mitchell is the odd man out.
Despite his age, Mitchell will be a sought after commodity on the free agent market as teams around the league could use his veteran presence to aid the development of their young payers like the Kings did. Having said that, it’s possible Mitchell will decide the toll taken on his body has been too much and will ride off into retirement as a champion.