• Tune in to Trade Talk for LIVE trade coverage every weekday
• Who's on the move? Nick Bowen tracks 2016's free agents

AS FAR as bombshell trades go, Hawthorn great Sam Mitchell's likely move to West Coast is about as big as it gets.

With the dust still settling from that jaw-dropping revelation, many Hawks supporters are asking why the club would let Mitchell go now while their premiership window is still open?

After all, there's a strong argument that the champion onballer's form is about as impressive as it's ever been – a case backed up in stats provided to AFL.com.au by Champion Data.

Fans react to Sam Mitchell bombshell

This season, Mitchell's 15th in the AFL, he was still ranked elite for disposals and score involvements for a midfielder.

His lethal kicking on both sides of his body remains in the competition's very top bracket and, despite the attention of run-with midfielders, his metres gained and clearance numbers have climbed in recent campaigns.

And in this year's finals series, Mitchell was still the No.1 shutdown target for opposition clubs.

Then, just last week, the 34-year-old claimed his fifth Peter Crimmins Medal – second only to the legendary Leigh Matthews (eight) for most Hawthorn best and fairest awards.

The fact is Mitchell's form has barely wavered since 2013 – encompassing the Hawks' golden premiership three-peat era – even as he passed the footballer's dreaded 30 birthday.

One knock on the nuggety 179cm onballer has been his defensive pressure, questioned by commentator Wayne Carey last year, when he doubted Mitchell would get a game at any other club due to his lack of pace and ability to do his bit in team defence.

While it might not be the veteran's forte, Mitchell's pressure acts, pressure points and tackles were better this season than in 2013 or '14, and his toughness in the clinches can't be undersold.

For the first time in his career, Mitchell didn't kick a goal this season, however with a grand total of just 67 majors in 307 games, that's never been his strongest suit either.

SAM MITCHELL 2013201420152016
Player ratings15.512.313.813.9
Contested possessions9.6710.0611.139.82
Kick rating+5.0%+2.5%+0.9%+3.0%
Turnovers leading to scores0.
Score involvements7.
Score assists1.
Pressure acts14.014.515.314.9
Pressure points32.833.436.534.3
One-on-ones: wins/contests3/124/84/153/10
Metres gained450317407451

But few players have the ability to unleash a scything kick off their left or right boot to set up teammates quite like Mitchell, or to fire a handpass through traffic to release runners from a stoppage.

There's no doubt he is still an A-grade midfielder which, as noted by West Coast football manager Craig Vozzo, is a rare commodity – especially when that player can mentor the Eagles' developing midfield brigade.

The reality is that all parties can win by Mitchell finishing his playing career settled in Perth before transitioning into coaching.

The Hawks will clear some salary cap space and continue the transition of an ageing side, rather than potentially losing Luke Hodge, Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson and Mitchell in one hit at the end of next season.

With Tom Mitchell all-but locked in and Jaeger O'Meara potentially not far behind, the Hawks should have two midfielders to build a new engine room around and next season will be time to shine for the likes of Will Langford and Jono O'Rourke.

When master coach Alastair Clarkson, who initiated the trade talk with Mitchell, says the Hawks are "ready to reload" and "coming again in 2017", it's not a warning to take lightly, even without one of his most revered champions.