By Jameson Cooper, Staff Writer
Whenever the puck finally drops for the 2012-2013 NHL season, the Florida Panther’s will be putting out one of the most intriguing and confusing second lines in the league. If current projections hold true, the Panther’s second line will be centered by rookie sensation Jonathan Huberdeau who many believe while he is still unproven, that he is the future of the franchise. Veteran winger Scottie Upshall will control the line’s left wing. The Panthers signed Upshall as a free agent last season with hopes that he could be a consistent scoring winger, but alas he was hampered by injuries and only managed to compete in 26 games.
How much Upshall can contribute with a full season and a quality surrounding line still remains to be seen. However, even on a line that already consists of a rookie center and an unproven winger, the biggest question mark will be the attempted revival of Peter Mueller’s career.
Mueller’s NHL career started off very promising when he was drafted 8th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. After being called up during the 2007-2008 season, Mueller continued his exceptional play by scoring 54 points and finished as one of the most impressive rookies that season. However, his numbers faltered over the following seasons and he was eventually traded to the Colorado Avalanche in hopes that a change of scenery would help him recapture the fire he had in his rookie campaign. Before the full results of his move could be seen, Mueller suffered a concussion in a game versus the San Jose Sharks.
Post concussion symptoms have kept Mueller mostly off the ice since the injury and a frequent resident of the injured reserved list. During this past offseason a supposedly symptom free Mueller was not re-signed by the Avalanche, thus giving other teams a chance to take a look at the once promising winger. The Panther’s emerged from the pack and made a low risk move when they signed Mueller to a one-year, $1.725 million dollar contract.
Panther’s General Manager Dale Tallon conveyed his high hopes for Mueller when he told NHL.com “I hope to get him back to what he was as a rookie.” Tallon continued with “He seems to be revitalized, and we did our due diligence. We brought him in here and checked him out from toes to nose, and everything checked out fine. He understands this is a great opportunity for him. He’s a top-six forward. He has size and skill, and he’s still young (24). It’s well worth the risk for us to sign him to a one-year deal and hope he gets back to what he was before he was injured.”
It seems like the Panther’s front office definitely did their homework before taking a chance on Mueller. Much like former underachievers Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, Mueller could be Tallon’s steal of the offseason. Tallon could potentially get his General Manager hat-trick with the 3rd revitalized career under his tenure. If Mueller can stay healthy and on the ice for a full season then the Panther’s risk will be considered a success. Hopefully this season will be a fresh start for Mueller, just as the Panther’s successfully began their fresh start as a franchise last season.