Last Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, Pierre LeBrun mentioned at the end of the Hotstove mentioned that Peter Mueller of the Phoenix Coyotes might not be getting along with new head coach Dave Tippett. The team over at Five For Howling has a great article on this comment and what leads to this speculation. In short, Tippett has moved the team from the nebulous whatever Gretzky was coaching to a defensively-minded system, where Mueller has struggled -- for the year he is a minus three with only one goal and three assists. In Monday’s game against Edmonton, he was even with one shot in 11:07 of ice time, most of it coming on the fourth line.
While those are not numbers that would jump out at you, make no mistake, Mueller is the right fit for Ottawa.
His rookie year he unleashed a stat line of 22 goals and 32 assists, and he followed it up with a less impressive campaign of 13-23-36. As a Phoenix resident, I have had the chance to watch him on the ice these past three years, and I like what I see. He is big (6-2, 205), fast, and a natural shooter. Only 21, he has some room to grow into a scorer in the right environment.
If there’s even a whiff of truth to this rumor, GM Bryan Murray should jump all over it while Mueller can be had for less than he'll wind up being worth. Ottawa has made deals with Phoenix in the past, and with Tippet’s system, they are one of the few teams the team can make a legitimate offer to.
Why it works: Scottie Upshall, Matthew Lombardi, and Martin Hanzal (healthy scratch against Edmonton) appear to be the offensive players Phoenix is building around. Kelly and Shannon are perfect fits for a more defensive system like the one Tippett has in place in Phoenix. Both players are extremely responsible defensively, and Shannon has the speed to make plays happen. Shannon’s size is also less of a worry in the Pacfici Division, especially with Pronger no longer there. He has bounced around here in Ottawa this year, but could easily find a home on the Coyotes’ third line alongside Kelly. Phoenix has the cap room (~ $15.9M under) to fit both players and re-sign Shannon, who is an unrestricted free agent next year, if he fits well. In addition, Phoenix gains another draft pick, which they will almost certainly need to continue their building process.
In retrun, Ottawa gains a potentially good goal scorer to compliment what is already on the team and clears approximately $2.6M off of their books. Some of this money can be used to re-sign Mueller, who is a restricted free agent next year, with the remainder going towards Volchenkov, who must be locked up. He would be immediately insertable on our second line and playing alongside Fisher and Kovalev, I believe he would flourish. This would also give the team the luxury of pairing Foligno and Regin on the third line, where the two should work well together.
Why it doesn’t work: Peter Mueller is going to grow into quite a good hockey player and the Coyotes would be very, very stupid to let him go.