Peter Mueller and the Avalanche still struggling to make a deal

petermueller1.jpgWaiting on restricted free agents to come to terms with their teams is a bit of an arduous process. Some teams don’t have the cap space they’d hope to to make a signing while others are sticking to a budget when looking to sign a player back. Other times, it comes down to differences of opinion on what a player is worth. Welcome to the world of Peter Mueller and the Colorado Avalanche.

The two sides have yet to come together on a deal and while details are lacking on how the negotiation is going, Adrian Dater of All Things Avs at The Denver Post poses the question about just how much could Mueller be worth considering his relatively short audition with the Avs last season and his health questions.

Yet, we all know Mueller had a highly productive 15 games with the Avs, posting 20 points and rejuvenating the power play. And we know he is a former top-10 NHL draft pick who had a very good rookie season for the Coyotes. He’s shown he can produce at this level. And we know, just because of how the system works, that Mueller is comparatively underpaid at his last salary of $850,000. I mean, Daniel Winnik is making more than that with the Avs now.

But we also know health factors into a team’s decision in deciding which players to give long-term, big contracts. We know Mueller has at least two documented concussions now which have kept him out of action. The more you get, the worse the long-term ramifications become, and often the longer the player is sidelined with the next one. Every player is one big hit away from a serious concussion, but those with histories of getting them, the more you worry.

So, what’s he worth? If the Avs were already at the cap floor, this would be a tougher question to answer. But since they’re not, the obvious answer seems to be “At least $2.1 million for 2010-11 anyway.” Done deal. What’s the holdup?

If the Avalanche are going to repeat the success they had last year, getting a full season out of Mueller, who was traded for Wojtek Wolski at the deadline last season, and having him continue to be productive would take some of the pressure off of youngsters Matt Duchene and Chris Stewart.

If Mueller is still struggling from the concussion he received at the end of last season, then that’s another issue entirely and one that muddies up the discussion over how much to pay the man. Considering how Mueller’s final days in Phoenix went, haggling too much with the Avs over money (if that is the case) might not be sending the right message to his new-ish team.

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