Of course, most of the attention over the past two days has been focused on Jeff Carter’s trade to the Kings, but the team also made a significant move yesterday when Willie Mitchell signed a two-year, $7-million contract extension. The Kings’ most veteran defenseman will stick around, and today Mitchell talked about his decision to stay with the Kings and not test the free-agent market this summer.
MITCHELL: “It’s nice to be here for an extended period of time. I like our team. We have underachieved as a group, there’s no doubt, but I like our team. When you get older, you want to stay somewhere where you think you’ve got a shot at winning. The nucleus of the team is a really, really good group, good players, and that’s a big reason why I re-signed here. I think it’s a group that’s capable of winning. Like I said, once you play a little bit, that becomes first and foremost for you, as far as being where you can have a shot at winning. I’m just looking forward to doing the same kinds of things. Obviously with a new acquisition, hopefully we can score some more goals and head into the playoffs on a hot streak, work our way in to get there.’’
Question: Did you decide you didn’t want to test the free-agency market this summer?
MITCHELL: “You’re only human, you think about that a little bit, but I’ve enjoyed my time here, enjoyed my teammates, enjoyed the team. I think it’s a team that’s got a really good nucleus, that’s got a shot at winning in the next couple years. When you play a little while, that becomes first and foremost, just having a shot at the Stanley Cup. You can go that (free-agency) route, but it’s very unpredictable where you could end up. For me, I’ve played a little while and it’s all about winning. I want a Cup. I don’t have that. A couple guys around here do, and I hear the stories, I hear everything. I’ve been to the conference finals, but that’s what drives me and that’s what motivates me, on the — I wouldn’t say latter half — but the later stages of my career. That’s what I want to accomplish, and I think we’ve got some good people around here and we can get that accomplished.
“We’ve just got to win some games down the stretch here and get into the playoffs. Obviously we’re fighting with a bunch of teams, but I’ll bet you if you polled any of the top teams, if we snuck in around eighth or seventh — or even still challenging San Jose — I don’t think teams want to play us (in the first round). So we’re just looking to focus on the game here against Chicago, a team that’s obviously one of the better teams in the league. They’ve had their ups and downs this year, but we need a big win tonight and get rolling to where we should be, in the top eight. We’ve got to work for it, though, but I feel confident we’re going to do that down the stretch.’’