Jul 3, 2013, 11:53 AM EDT
Not so fast.
The Panthers didn’t make a qualifying offer to the 25-year-old restricted free agent — making him an unrestricted free agent — explaining that the issue is Mueller’s contractual status.
“He has arbitration rights. We’re still negotiating with him,” Florida GM Dale Tallon told the Sun-Sentinel. “We’d like to keep him, but it’s just a matter of what the right number is as far as our budget is.
“We were fearful if he went to arbitration we wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
While that explanation works — Mueller made $1.7 million last year, and is in line for a raise — it’s hard to imagine Mueller getting a bank-breaking deal from arbitration, given he only scored 17 points last year.
The bigger issue, it seems, is that Mueller’s a center.
Florida surprised some at Sunday’s draft by taking Aleksander Barkov with the No. 2 overall pick — many figured they’d go with defenseman Seth Jones — but taking the Finnish center added to Florida’s stable of talented, young centers: Barkov, Drew Shore, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trochek.
Still, it’s hard to imagine Florida letting Mueller walk altogether.
He rebounded from severe concussion issues (didn’t play at all during the 2010-11 season) to earn the aforementioned Masterton nomination.
The former eighth overall pick also often skated on the club’s top line last season with Shore and Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau.
- In the playoffs, sometimes it comes down to the ‘bounces’ 0
- Now feels like a good time to debate Stamkos’ next contract 12
- Here’s the latest on coaching searches in Buffalo, San Jose and New Jersey 1
- Bishop bounced back in Game 5, but did the Rangers test him enough? 8
- Surging Stamkos: Lightning put Rangers on the brink 19
- Report: Blues will stick with Hitchcock ‘barring anything dramatic’ 15
- WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Rangers, Game 5 of Eastern Conference Final 0
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ 70
- Video: ‘It’s not the ideal situation,’ says OT hero Vermette of being a healthy scratch 5
- From healthy scratch to hero: Vermette scores OT winner for Blackhawks 65
- Reports: Sabres thought they had a deal with Babcock, aren’t happy (174)
- Leafs land Babcock with reported 8-year deal, estimated at $50 million (130)
- Russia to be punished for ‘completely out of order’ actions after Worlds final loss to Canada (91)
- Report: Sabres negotiating with Babcock (82)
- What’s wrong with Lundqvist? (70)