Montreal, QUEBEC – Marc Bergevin made Torrey Mitchell’s dream to play for the Montreal Canadiens a reality on March 2, when he traded AHL bruiser Jack Nevins and a 2016 seventh round draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres.
On Monday, Bergevin made sure Mitchell’s dream-turned-reality wasn’t short-lived, signing him to a three-year, $3.6 million deal that took three weeks to consummate.
Mitchell, a native of Greenfield Park on the south shore of Montreal, will come with a $1.2 million cap hit, down from the $1.9 million he carried in each of the last three seasons split between the Minnesota Wild and Sabres.
Mitchell represents the second trade acquisition made by Bergevin this year to skirt unrestricted free agency in favour of remaining with the Canadiens. Defenceman Jeff Petry was the first, signing a six-year deal worth an average of $5.5 million per season on June 2.
“I just thought we have all the ingredients of a winning team, so it’s just the whole experience was great,” said Mitchell on Tuesday from his summer home in Burlington, Vermont. “It’s something I definitely wanted to continue to be a part of.”
At first blush, Bergevin’s decision to award Mitchell with three years of security seems generous considering the 30-year-old centre is coming off a 14-point season and had never eclipsed 23 points in any of his previous six NHL seasons.
But Mitchell proved as serviceable as an auxiliary player can be with five points in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff contests with the Canadiens, providing speed that helped him gel with their system and the type of character Bergevin covets in all of his players.
Mitchell was also a crucial addition for a Canadiens team that didn’t have any right-handed centremen before his acquisition was made. He won more than 50 percent of his draws at even strength and showed versatility in averaging 1:58 per game on the penalty kill. His reliable play secured him a permanent position as the team’s fourth line centre and relegated veteran Manny Malhotra, who previously occupied the job, to the sidelines.
“The term was important,” Mitchell said. “I’m not 22 years old; I’m 30 and I wanted to feel like the team was going to commit to me.”
As for shaving the dollars down from his last contract to this one, Mitchell said he accepted what he believes is an average salary among fourth line centres in the League.
This deal has to be considered a good signing by the Canadiens because Mitchell is certainly better than your average fourth line centre. Despite heavy usage in the defensive zone, Mitchell came out on the positive side on shot attempt differential at even strength in the post-season.
“He was an excellent addition to our group of forwards last season,” said Bergevin via press release after making a signing he admitted he was committed to at his press conference on May 15.
With Mitchell inked, Montreal’s general manager has done the majority of this off-season’s heavy lifting nearly two weeks ahead of the draft. Montreal is tight against the cap, having already committed $66.5 million to 11 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders.
Among those waiting to be signed are restricted free agents Alex Galchenyuk and Jarred Tinordi. It’s safe to assume the former represents a trickier negotiation than the latter. Other RFA forwards Brian Flynn, Michael Bournival and Christian Thomas await qualifying offers from Bergevin, who—assuming the salary cap is set at $71 million for 2015-16—has just over $4 million left to sign these five players.