This summer, ex-NHLers Matthew Lombardi and Peter Mueller left the Swiss league to attempt comebacks with the Rangers and Blues, respectively.
Now it sounds like both are headed back across the pond.
Following news that Mueller, who was released by St. Louis, signed with the NLA’s Kloten Flyers, TVA reported that Lombardi refused his assignment to AHL Hartford — meaning a return to his old Swiss club, Geneve-Servette HC, could be in the cards.
Lombardi, 32, looked to have a decent shot of cracking the Rangers this year, especially after center Derek Stepan went down to injury in the preseason. But Lombardi suffered a lower-body injury of his own during camp and was unable to make his way up the depth chart, and didn’t want to toil in the minors for another crack at the NHL.
It’s very similar to the Mueller situation in St. Louis. From NHL.com’s Lou Korac:
“He doesn’t want to go to [AHL] Chicago,” [Blues GM Dough] Armstrong said of Mueller, who played in four preseason games with the Blues. “We put him back on unconditional waivers today. If he clears tomorrow, we’ll talk one more time and make sure that he no longer has the desire to stay in North America. He’ll be released out of his contract, no buyout.”
Mueller was originally penciled into the Blues’ top nine but didn’t make the cut as camp progressed. But the team signed him with the assumption that Mueller would report to Chicago should be not make the opening night roster and work his way back to St. Louis.
“That was a difficult one obviously for the organization and for Peter,” Armstrong said. “We thought he had a good camp. He was in our group of nine players that were going to start in our first three lines and we viewed him as a top nine player. He just doesn’t feel like he has the desire to go to the American Hockey League at this time and work his way back up. I have to respect that and we’ll move forward with that.”
The Minnesota Wild brought a familiar face back into the fold on Thursday by claiming d-man Nate Prosser off waivers from St. Louis.
Prosser, 28, signed with the Wild as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and spent five years with the club, appearing in over 100 regular-season contests while making 10 postseason appearances last year.
The former Colorado College standout inked a one-year, two-way deal (worth $700,000) with the Blues in July but was put on waivers yesterday — along with Peter Mueller — after both were unable to crack what’s a pretty loaded St. Louis roster.
How Prosser fits in his second tour with the Wild remains to be seen. For more perspective, here’s what the Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo wrote in July when the club opted not to re-sign Prosser:
Prosser proved last year you can easily throw him in and feel comfortable. The question is whether the Wild would be willing to sign Prosser to a one-way contract. That’s what he still wants if he’s going to re-sign in Minnesota. At some point soon, if Prosser is offered a concrete two-way from someone, he may need to pounce though. As I mentioned the other day, there’s only so many so-called “veterans” teams can sign that can play in the minors if those players don’t make the big club. And those “veteran” roster spots are quickly filling up on AHL rosters.
The debate internally, I think, is the Wild is still trying to make a trade for a defenseman before training camp. So if you sign Prosser to a one-way and then acquire another one-way contract, you could be blocking out kids like Christian Folin or Matt Dumba or maybe even have to put a one-way like Prosser in the minors (if he were not to be claimed off waivers).
The Wild never made that trade and currently have 11 d-men on the roster, though Keith Ballard has been dealing with a lower-body injury.
While Peter Mueller boasts the advantage of at least having a contract (rather than just a tryout invite) with the St. Louis Blues, he must still make a strong impression since he signed a two-way deal.
(The 26-year-old’s contract is worth $700K at the NHL level but drops to $250K in the AHL, according to Cap Geek.)
As nerve-wracking as the prospect of fighting for a spot might be – particularly after going overseas last season, especially on a team Mueller referred to as a “powerhouse” – Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock gave the journeyman forward very simple advice.
With a history of concussion problems and a false-start or two in his career, it would be understandable if Mueller (pictured playing for Team USA) might fear over-thinking things, especially with a defensive-minded coach like Hitchcock. There’s plenty of logic in setting him loose, however, as there’s always the chance he could be a late-blooming prospect (he was selected eighth overall in 2006) like Benoit Pouliot.
Granted, with 13 forwards listed and Jaden Schwartz still in need of a contract, Mueller still faces a significant challenge in sticking around. Taking a positive approach can’t hurt though, right?