If Peter Mueller is going to make his return to the NHL after a year away, it will be with the St. Louis Blues organization. The Blues signed Mueller to a one-year, two-way contract Tuesday. The former first-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes spent last season in Switzerland after not being able to find NHL work last offseason.
Mueller put up 46 points in 49 games for Kloten in the Swiss NLA. He finished third in the league in scoring. He also got an invite to play for Team USA at the IIHF World Championship and posted four points in eight games for the Americans.
Mueller's history in the NHL has been clouded by concussion issues. The once promising prospect made his presence felt in the league immediately, putting up 54 points as a rookie with the Coyotes. He slumped in his sophomore season and the following year was traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
After suffering two concussions, Mueller missed the entire 2010-11 season. He also dealt with post-concussion symptoms that sidelined him for much of the 2011-12 season. He managed just 47 games with the Avs and showed some of that old scoring touch with 36 points over that span, but the injury concerns loomed.
When he became a free agent, Mueller caught on with the Florida Panthers for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. He put up 17 points in 43 games and actually posted strong possession numbers as well. He's always been a strong possession player, but the concussion concerns have far outweighed the potential for production.
After making it through the last two seasons relatively healthy, even though neither season could match the 82-game grind he'll have to face, Mueller should have quieted some of the concerns about his health.
When the New York Rangers signed Matthew Lombardi, another concussion-marred former NHLer who also starred in the Swiss league last season, to an NHL deal, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Mueller got his shot.
The Blues are minimizing their risk by giving Mueller a two-way deal, so he could be destined for a stint in the American Hockey League. That said, if Mueller proves he can still play at the NHL level, and there's little reason to believe he can't, the Blues might have a great depth addition to their roster, especially in the wake of losing Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL.
The Blues have a lot of forwards under contract currently, which is going to make it tougher for Mueller to break through, but there's good reason to take a chance on a 26-year-old NHL veteran who has had some success in the league before. Nothing may come of it, but if Mueller can help, he's cap-friendly and experienced. That just winds up making a deep team deeper.