Friday, August 20, 2010

Willie Sign Him?

With Willie Mitchell's 'LeBron Day' approaching, I thought it appropriate to take a look back at the Capitals' history of dipping their toes in the free agent water to sign a defenseman and, more importantly, how those signings panned out. We'll take a look at the defensemen who played 50+ games in a season for the Caps after being signed, and we may as well go as far back as 1997 and the hiring of George McPhee as General Manager.

I count 10 significant free agent defenseman signings in that time frame:
  • Tom Poti ('07)
  • Brian Pothier ('06)
  • John Erskine ('06)
  • Ivan Majesky ('06)
  • Jamie Heward ('05)
  • Bryan Muir ('05)
  • Mathieu Biron ('05)
  • Jason Doig ('02)
  • Rob Zettler ('99)
  • Dimitri Mironov ('98)
Yep, everyone else was either home-grown or a trade acquisition (or never played many games as a Cap).

I could argue that the only 'significant' signings on this list are Poti, Pothier and Mironov. Only 5 players on the list had played in a playoff game prior to becoming a Cap, with a total of 143 playoff games between them (with Mironov alone playing 71 of those games). Only Muir and Mironov had won a Stanley Cup. It's a list short on impact players and long on 3rd and 4th pairing defensemen.

On the positive side, the two most recent signings (Poti & Pothier) can be considered solid moves. Also, with the most recent of these signings happening way back in 2007, McPhee has shown confidence in both the current defensive corps at the time and talented defensive prospects in the pipeline. Both Mike Green and Jeff Schultz proved McPhee's foresight correct in the past, and John Carlson and Karl Alzner will get the chance to prove him right again this coming season.

Based on his history of signing free agent defensemen, chances are Willie Mitchell will probably be skating elsewhere next season. But George McPhee has surprised us before... that Jason Doig signing caught us all off guard.

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