Mitchell's gunning for a contract
A cellphone picture shows goalie Martin Jones in net after a slapshot from free agent Willie Mitchell shattered the glass during an informal skate at UBC. (HOSEA CHEUNG, 24 HOURS)
Willie Mitchell sent a resounding message to anyone willing to listen Monday.
Skating with several NHL players at UBC, the UFA defenceman wired a booming slapshot past the head of goaltender Martin Jones and shattered the glass behind the net.
Then moments later, while still sporting a giant grin on his face, he aimed again at the remaining fragments, finishing the job.
For a player whose career seemed to be in jeopardy just months earlier, there's no better way to say "I'm back, baby".
The hour-and-a-half session Monday was far from Mitchell's first venture back on the ice since suffering a concussion in January, having skated since early July.
After missing the remaining 44 games with the Canucks last year and still feeling symptoms at seasons end, the 33-year-old's recovery has come a long way. Hence the current interest for his service from teams reportedly including San Jose, Los Angeles, Washington, and Vancouver.
"I feel a lot more ready than I do usually at this time of the year," Mitchell said.
"I'm obviously flattered that a lot of teams are interested and fortunately enough, the main teams that are interested are teams that have a shot at winning it all and that's what it's all about."
With his Canucks contract expired and questions surrounding his physical condition lingering, the Port McNeill native took initiative over the past weeks in hopes of getting a deal done by working out with "a few teams" to show his health.
"I don't want to entertain things on July 1 when I didn't go through all the hurdles, it wouldn't be fair to that team cause if I went through those hurdles and it didn't go well, I wouldn't be doing them any favours," he said, adding that the workout with Vancouver was the hardest of the bunch.
"I thought it was prudent to do it not only for the Canucks but for other teams."
While the physical testings went well, Mitchell says it's about the best fit when it comes to picking a team to sign with.
But he's not divulging as to which team he's leaning towards or when he'll make a decision.
"We're in the middle of all that stuff right now so it's not that fair for me to comment on that," he said. "You guys will find out here soon enough."