Former Canuck Mitchell heads to L.A.
Defenceman Willie Mitchell has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Kings, the team announced Wednesday.
The Kings said on their website the two-year contract was worth $7 million US.
The deal ended half a year of uncertainty about Mitchell's NHL career after he suffered a season-ending concussion when he was crushed into the boards by Penguins star Evgeni Malkin on Jan. 16 in Pittsburgh.
"I've still got some unfinished business left as a hockey player," the former Vancouver Canucks blue-liner said in a conference call. "That's holding something up over my head."
The Kings won a bidding war with at least three teams, reportedly the Canucks, Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks. Speaking earlier Wednesday after an informal skate at the University of British Columbia, Mitchell indicated the Canucks did not meet his financial terms as "economics" got in the way.
"I went down to L.A. and I really felt that they believed in me as a player," Mitchell said. "That's where you want to be as a player — somewhere that you believe they believe in you. I got the feeling that they thought it would be a really good fit. And for me personally, it was a chance to be with a young and up and coming team that has a lot of great things going."
Mitchell said he started feeling better in mid-June, but rather than sign with a club on the first day of free agency on July 1, he delayed his decision until he could prove to teams he was healthy enough to resume his career.
Cleared by doctors
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said he decided to sign the unrestricted free agent after he met the NHL's concussion protocol, received doctors' approval and passed the pre-season fitness tests.
Lombardi said he felt Mitchell was "worth the risk" after watching Kings centre Jarret Stoll recover from concussions and witnessing retired San Jose Shark Tony Granato's recovery from a brain aneurysm.
Mitchell spent the last four seasons in Vancouver. In 2009-10, the Port McNeill, B.C., native had four goals and eight assists in 48 games during a season that was shortened by injury.
Mitchell, 33, was drafted by New Jersey in 1996 and has 19 goals and 100 assists in 586 career games.
His first regular season game as a King will be against the Canucks, and Mitchell said it will be a really emotional experience after leaving the team he grew up watching.
"Hopefully I get my colours right on the first night," Mitchell said.
With files from The Canadian Press