It was a bittersweet day for Willie Mitchell who officially left Vancouver to sign a generous two-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Canucks, who had lingering concerns about Mitchell's health just couldn't compete with the $7-million, two-year deal he signed.
"Who's kidding who? Everyone knows I love playing in Vancouver," Mitchell said from UBC where he skated Wednesday with his former Vancouver teammates. "I wish that the economics of the game didn't get in the way of it. It was unforeseen circumstances that I got hit in the head like that."
With questions about Mitchell, the Canucks went out this offseason and fortified their defence with two big acquisitions in Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis.
By the time Mitchell felt he was healthy to come back in July, there wasn't enough money to come close to the offer the Kings tabled. The Canucks, who are $3 million over the cap, were in discussions with Mitchell for something in the one-year, $1.8 to $2-million range. They had to back off once they heard the money the Kings were dangling. Mitchell said he understood.
"The economics of the game got in the way of a lot of things," Mitchell said. "That's just the situation. Did the Vancouver Canucks or Willie Mitchell foresee me getting hit on Jan. 16 and this happening? No, we all didn't.
"They had to make adjustments along the way."
After suffering a serious concussion in January, Mitchell missed the rest of the season. He acknowledged Wednesday that he wondered at times if he'd ever be back.
"I'd be lying to anyone if I said I didn't feel that for a little bit," Mitchell said. "But then you start gradually getting better and you see that carrot and that light at the end of the tunnel. You're like, 'OK, things are back.'
"You talk to anyone who has been through that experience like me and, of course, you have that thought run through your mind for a little bit. But negative energy can kill you.
"To be honest with you, when I left all the pressures of not being there for my teammates in the playoffs just because physically I couldn't. Or the pressures of the media the coaches and all that stuff that's actually when I started to heal the quickest. That's when I knew things were going to be good again."
Mitchell was thankful for his four years in Vancouver and said he thought he made big strides as a player.
"I've played the best hockey of my career in the past four years," Mitchell said. "I think I've gotten better as a player, especially in years three and four in Vancouver. I started evolving my game, I started to become a better offensive player."
"I've had a lot of fun in the Canucks organization. I'm looking forward to going to a team which, I get the feeling, is really passionate about having me there.
"They are a good young team maybe following in the footsteps of Chicago.
"There was nothing easy about this that's for sure. I was very fortunate that there were good teams who were interested in my services."