In what is likely the last move by the Panthers on this first day of the 2014 free agent signing period, the team inked UFA defenseman Willie Mitchell to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million ($4.25M per year). Mitchell played more than 20 minutes per game for the league champion Los Angeles Kings last season, after spending 2012-13 recovering from injury. He is 6'3" and 210 lbs, shoots left handed, and makes the front of the net a very unpleasant place for opposing forwards.
Mitchell is in no way an offensively-gifted blueliner, but he was an important part of the Kings Cup run just weeks ago. Drafted in 1996, he's logged 795 NHL games, as well as 89 playoff appearances. He is not a fast skater, but uses his size and experience well. Most importantly for the Panthers, Mitchell brings a pair of Stanley Cup wins and the attendant experience earned with them to help in educating a very young Panthers backend.
- Some thoughts from the Kings camp on Florida's newest defenseman
- Career statistics via HockeyDB.com
- For the advanced statistics crowd via ExtraSkater.com
Finally, Roberto Luongo apparently was a big proponent of this signing:
Coming around on Mitchell deal. 2 Cups, good mentor for youth. Evidently Luongo's 1st choice given history, per team source. #FlaPanthers— Donny Rivette (@LitterBoxCats) July 1, 2014
While Mitchell turned 37 in April, even the pundits at TSN, not normally the biggest fans of the Cats' free agent moves, allowed that Mitchell will eat minutes and train the youngsters well. Nothing spectacular here, but very solid.