ANAHEIM – Well, on paper, it doesn’t look like a good deal at all, does it? The Avs today acquired a forward, Peter Mueller, who has four goals and 17 points in 54 games this year. To get him, they gave up a guy, Wojtek Wolski, who has 17 goals and 47 points in 62 games.
But this was one of those trades where both teams were tired of the guy they had, and wanted to roll the dice that their careers would blossom more with a change of scenery.
The Avs get a guy who was drafted eighth overall just four years ago, who scored 22 goals as a rookie, who got a lot of consideration for rookie of the year that year. So what has happened since? Why are his numbers so awful this year, and why weren’t they very good last year either? Talking to a couple of insiders from Phoenix today, they say a lot of the same things that were said about Wolski by people within the Avs: that he gets lazy sometimes, that he doesn’t sacrifice his body enough, doesn’t “pay the price” around the net.
They said his strong rookie season might have gone to his head, that he didn’t push his game to the next level, that he got too self-satisfied with his situation. The Coyotes finally had enough of wanting the old Mueller back and so they dealt him.
The Avs are gambling that the trade will rock Mueller’s world enough that he gets that desire back. If they can make that happen, they will have a player who was supposed to be one of the NHL’s real up-and-coming stars of the future not that long ago.
The Coyotes are banking on the same thing with Wolski, only they have a stronger case on paper that they’ll get more from the deal, at least in the short term. Wolski’s statistics are still good, no matter how you slice it.
But Avs fans know there are real risks for the Coyotes too. He does float in games too much, doesn’t get his nose dirty enough and isn’t there in the clutch so much (shootouts excepted).
Something went very wrong after Monday’s game, in the relations between the Avs and Wolski. There are plenty of indications that the coaching staff and management were furious at the effort he put forth, and decided then and there to put him on the trade block. Wolski left the Pepsi Center that night with an angry look on his face. Stuff happens all the time, but something obviously went bad that night.
I’ll be talking to Greg Sherman soon and will have what he says, but my hunch is that game really changed things with Wolski’s situation here.
Also keep this in mind: Wolski not only was making $2.8 million this year and his contract was up, but he was eligible for arbitration this summer. Could he have expected $4 million on his next deal? With the numbers he’s had, certainly.
Money had something to do with this deal too.
*I just got off the phone with Sherman, and here’s his general summation of the deal (with more detail in tomorrow’s Post): “There were a lot of variables to consider, and in the end I made a decision that I felt was the best situation for the organization going forward. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Wojtek. He’s a good person. But this was a situation where we made a decision we felt makes us better.”
On Mueller, Sherman said: “With the number of young players we have, I think Peter fits well into that profile of what we’re trying to do. We think our environment could help him reach his potential – and not so much his potential, because he’s proven himself before. He scored 20 (22 actually) goals in our league before. There was a coaching change in Phoenix this year. He’s still a real young guy, and we thought he was a good fit for us.”
That, to me, is a bit of the shame of the thing. Dumping salary is one thing, but dumping salary on a guy still only 24 years old with 47 points in 62 games? And, for a guy with horrible numbers this year? Risky, risky.
Anyway, the dealing is done. Marek Svatos, Ruslan Salei and John Liles remain on the team. I believe, based on various conversations, that Svatos wanted and expected a trade. But the Avs arguably still need him, especially with the injury to Brandon Yip.
Liles’ contract is just an immovable force, but the concussion injury to Kyle Cumiskey (who skated this morning and said he’s feeling better) might have changed his situation a little too.