|Forward Peter Mueller (Getty Images)
Contract Not Renewed. New Team. Olympics. Thailand. Tropical Storm Isaac. It’s all a part of a busy summer for new Panthers forward Peter Mueller. To say that Mueller has had a whirlwind couple of months might be a big understatement.
But there he was Wednesday morning skating in an informal skating session at the JetBlue Training Facility at Saveology.com Iceplex with new teammates Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Kopecky, Tyson Strachan, Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore, going through drills and a four-on-four scrimmage with a smile that didn't leave his face throughout.
"I've only been here a few days but it's been a blast so far," said the forward while standing by his new locker. "As you can probably see, there's only a few guys but (they’ve been) very welcoming. It feels good to come in and you've already made some friends and get to know everybody kind of before the season starts.
"First impressions, I just have got a smile on my face. I'm very happy to be here. I'm excited to play hockey in South Florida."
For Mueller, playing hockey since the age of three, it's a chance to start anew. And when you're talking about the game, there's nothing better for the former Phoenix Coyote and Colorado Avalanche forward.
"It's very enjoyable. It's a new experience," said Mueller. "It's not every day you get to walk out and see the sun and wear shorts but on the same note it's hockey. Hockey's my life and I enjoy playing it. It's just a fun time meeting every new face. I'm starting a home here which is awesome and getting excited to play."
If you were to ask Mueller where he would have been playing this upcoming season months ago, he would have told you he would be playing his home games in Denver. Instead it will be in sunny South Florida.
At only 24 years old and his contract up, Mueller was a restricted free agent. All the Avalanche had to do was qualify him and he would have been playing in Colorado. Instead, he wasn't qualified and automatically became an unrestricted free agent. It was something that came as a surprise to the young forward.
"Absolutely. I was shocked. To be honest, it left that really sour taste in your mouth. Kind of wonder why and what's going on." said Mueller before shifting focus to his future. "As soon as that happened, we got in contact with Florida and Dale showed some interest and got excited about that."
Signing with Florida on July 1st to a one-year deal, Mueller doesn't have to look far for inspiration. While they didn't play together in Colorado as Mueller missed all of the 2010-11 season with a concussion, he can take motivation from another former Avalanche forward, Tomas Fleischmann. The forward led the Panthers in scoring with 61 points in his first season with the club after signing a four-year deal with the club in July 2011.
"You just look at Flash and what his skills are and obviously he had a little bit of a health scare that last year but I'm very happy for him. He's just succeeded well," said Mueller who himself posted 16 points in 32 games this past season after battling various injuries. "He's found a home here which is awesome and I'm hoping I can kind of follow in his foot steps...and put up some points and help the team win."
The change in teams wasn't the only thing that gave Mueller an eventful summer. The Bloomington, MN native went on a belated honeymoon with his wife Taylar to Thailand and went to London to see the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
"It was unbelievable," said Mueller of his trip to the Olympics. "If anyone gets a chance to go and just visit for a day, I would highly recommend it."
For his honeymoon experience, the couple took a couple of weeks to have some fun in Asia.
"We went to an elephant sanctuary so we could ride the elephant and do all that fun stuff. It makes you open your eyes quite a bit when you go into like Bangkok and those different types of areas were very populated...It was a great experience."
And getting to South Florida was an experience all in itself. Driving from Vancouver, the Muellers got to his new home just in time for some good ole fashioned Mother Nature.
"We drove across country and we got right into South Florida as soon as Isaac started to hit. So the first expression was 'oh my gosh. I hope this isn't like this every day'," said Mueller. "And then it went through on Sunday, the worse day, and then you know it's 90 and sunny and it's right back to normal."
Getting down early and working out with his new teammates and guys he's known before such as Jovanovski, Scottie Upshall and Jack Skille was extremely important for the forward.
"Just to show everyone that I'm committed to this team and I want to play a good full year and get to know everyone," said Mueller. "It's a new team, new faces, new situation for not just me but for other people welcoming me."
Both Mueller and the Panthers are hoping that the forward can stay healthy as he would be a big boost to the offense.
"For me I just want to play a full season. I want to play 82 games," said Mueller. "I want to contribute. Just play a full healthy season and that's about it."
Although with being really healthy for the first time since his rookie season in the league, Mueller feels he can get back to that season in which he posted career highs across the board with the Coyotes. There he posted 22 goals and 54 points while skating in 81 games.
"I know I can," said Mueller on returning to his earlier form. "There's no doubt in my mind."