Los Angeles Kings Make Smart, Understated Moves Early in Free Agency

The Los Angeles Kings didn’t exactly make a splash when free agency opened on Tuesday. With a balanced, well-constructed roster, they didn’t need to.

Indeed, the rest of the Western Conference has been trying to catch up to the reigning champions so far this offseason by looking to match L.A.’s strength at center. Anaheim dealt for Ryan Kesler, Dallas acquired Jason Spezza, St. Louis nabbed Paul Stastny and pivot-starved Chicago took a flier on Brad Richards.

Despite these developments, the Kings remain unparalleled down the middle on account of their four-headed monster comprised of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll.

Nevertheless, general manager Dean Lombardi had some business to attend to, and he took care of it wisely to start the free-agency period.


Cutting Willie Mitchell Loose

After missing the entire 2013 season with a knee injury, veteran blueliner Mitchell could not live up to his reputation as a stout defender last year. He routinely lost battles in front of L.A.'s net and no longer snuffed out opposing forwards’ designs with his long reach.

Had he merely lost a step, the Kings could have been forgiven for granting him a chance to bounce back.

However, the 37-year-old’s decision-making has also fallen victim to the aging process. Plays consistently died with the puck on Mitchell’s stick. Instead of moving it quickly to an available outlet, he often held on for a second too long.

Just look at this gaffe from Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago:

That’s the sort of tentativeness you’d expect from a rookie in his postseason trial by fire. From an experienced rearguard, it’s inexcusable.

Mitchell’s underlying numbers paint an ugly picture, too. In the 2013-14 playoffs, he posted the very worst rel...

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