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Why is Mueller still unsigned?

Peter Mueller was traded to Colorado from Phoenix last season in exchange for Wojtek Wolski. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Peter Mueller was traded to Colorado from Phoenix last season in exchange for Wojtek Wolski. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Colorado Avalanche winger Peter Mueller remains unsigned and that led Adrian Dater of the Denver Post to speculate why.

Dater listed Mueller’s concussion history (he’s had at least two so far) plus the Avs’ desire to re-sign goalie Craig Anderson (who has one year left) and fill other roster needs as the chief reasons why the 22-year-old is still without a contract.

Mueller’s status has led to some wild Internet speculation the Avalanche will shop him during pre-season if he remains unsigned, but that’s unlikely to happen.

As Dater suggested, Mueller will most likely accept a short-term deal of a year or two and step up his production during that period in order to cash in during his next round of contract talks

DEALING WITH THE DEVILS

As trade rumors continue to swirl over which salary-dumping moves the New Jersey Devils will make, some Toronto Maple Leafs fans have wondered if Leafs GM Brian Burke will try to exploit the Devils’ situation in hopes of finally landing that elusive top-line center.

Greg Brady of Toronto sports radio station Fan 590 doesn’t expect it, dismissing the possibility recently on his blog. Brady also quotes a knowledgeable source who shot down the prospect of the Devils trading Travis Zajac, calling the thought “comical.” Brady also suggests moving expensive veterans such as Brian Rolston, Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus won’t be easy.

Brady believes likely trade partners for the Devils are teams like the Islanders, Blues and Avalanche who have plenty of cap space, but pointed out those franchises would also want a top prospect thrown into the deal to take salary off New Jersey’s hands.

You can’t rule out the possibility one of those clubs making a deal with the Devils, but they’re also trying to keep payroll as low as possible. Even if New Jersey tossed in a top prospect or a high draft pick it would still be a tough sell.

STARS SEEKING BLUELINER?

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News examined the lack of significant off-season moves made by Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, specifically his inability to land a top veteran defenseman.

Heika cited Nieuwendyk’s limited budget for the upcoming season as the chief factor.

Tomas Kaberle, Sheldon Souray and Kevin Bieksa are available, but the Stars would have to move salary to absorb one of those contracts and would also prefer to re-sign them long-term.

Heika wrote that the Stars tried to use Mike Ribeiro as a bargaining chip to land a puckmoving blueliner, but did not want to just give him away.

Ribeiro was frequently mentioned as trade bait in the summer, but his $5-million salary, no-trade clause and the uncertainty over Brad Richards’ future with the Stars were factors that kept him in Dallas.

Nieuwendyk may swing a trade for a veteran puckmoving blueliner later in the season, perhaps close to the trade deadline if the Stars are in playoff contention, but it appears he’s not interested in either a short-term fix or an expensive option.

Nieuwendyk’s negotiations with RFAs James Neal and Matt Niskanen are continuing, though their agents and Stars management prefer to continue talks quietly.

Neal was frequently mentioned in trade rumors this summer, but it’s apparent the Stars want to retain him.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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