Phoenix and Colorado trade talented headaches in Mueller-Wolski deal

Phoenix Coyotes exchanged frustrating forward Peter Mueller (along with prospect Kevin Porter) to the Colorado Avalanche for the productive but often-critiqued Wojtek Wolski. The NHL doesn’t often see two high-level young players change teams very often, but that is exactly what happened in this trade.

Mueller might be the bigger name (and not just for Ben Stein jokes) since he was the eighth overall pick in the 2006 draft and occasionally shows a dazzling amount of skill. Much like another underwhelming (but highly touted) Coyotes forward Kyle Turris, Mueller’s output has been disappointing since his solid rookie season. In his first three seasons, Mueller’s numbers have plummeted from 54 to 34 to 17 points this year.

Wolski could ultimately be the true “prize” of this trade, though. He’s steadily produced between 40 and 50 points per year since his sophomore campaign and is projected to hit a career-high 62 points this season. That being said, Wolski brings his own problems to the table.

Adrian Dater wrote about the possibility of Wolski being traded today and shared this negative story:


“His play was just awful Monday night, and the Avs’ coaches weren’t happy about it.

I didn’t report this last night, because I don’t like to write a lot about what goes on in hallways right after games and feel like a snoop or a snitch. But I think it’s fair of me to say that Wolski walked out of the Pepsi Center last night looking mighty surly, not in the usual way of a player who just lost a game in the regular season, but of a guy who looked upset at more than that.

We’ve all seen Wolski get into the coach’s doghouse before, going back to Joel Quenneville and Tony Granato, and I think we might have seen it again Monday night with Joe Sacco. Nobody was happy at all with his play, and haven’t for a little while now.”
So, ultimately, it’s the exchange of a fairly productive but limited player who perplexes many (Wolski) for a guy whose “upside” tantalizes but whose results are less than impressive (Mueller). The Avalanche also received prospect Kevin Porter who is considered a fairly solid prospect himself. This season he’s produced 15 goals and 40 points for the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL.

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    Plenty of opportunity on revamped Blackhawks defense

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    For almost a decade, Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ back end, quietly providing some of the most effective defense in the league.

    But with Hjalmarsson in Arizona now, traded to the Coyotes for the younger-though-less-proven Connor Murphy, it remains to be seen how Chicago’s blue line will roll out next season.

    In addition to Hjalmarsson, the ‘Hawks also bid adieu to Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Trevor van Riemsdyk this offseason.

    Add up all the good-byes, and that’s a lot of minutes to replace.

    “We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we’re going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

    The way it looks right now, the top four will be comprised of Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, and Michal Kempny. That’s two left shots — Keith and Kempny — and two righties — Seabrook and Murphy.

    Read more: After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

    The bottom pairing, though, is anyone’s guess. Newly signed Czech defenseman Jan Rutta is in the mix. But so too are Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and possibly even Luc Snuggerud.

    Once training camp starts, it’ll be up to those young players to prove themselves.

    “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more,” said Oesterle, whom the ‘Hawks signed July 1. “I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

    Veteran Michal Rozsival is also under contract for next season. However, he turns 39 in September, and with all that youth champing at the bit, the Blackhawks will be hoping they won’t need him much, if at all.

    Chicago’s defense in 2016-17, ranked by total time on ice

    Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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    Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

    “Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

    Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

    That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

    Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

    “We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

    Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

    You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

    Just don’t bet the house on it.

    Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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    Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

    The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

    Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

    From the press release:

    Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

    Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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    Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

    According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

    Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

    “Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

    But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

    Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.