And just when it looked like Ray Shero had taken a day off at the worst possible time, a trade for a young, mobile defenseman finally got pushed across the desk of the NHL. Of course, it was defenseman that very few people had heard of, but it was one with undeniable potential that only cost assets that would have been less likely to see theirs come to fruition. In a perfect world a guy who has struggled to get on professional ice wouldn't cost multiple draft picks, but being upset that the Devils didn't walk away from what was an eerily quiet expansion purge with a top end talent equates to being upset that they still possess the first overall pick in the draft. Maybe expectations were unrealistic or perhaps the sky high demand for quality blue liners drove up the asking price, but the silence on the trade front was deafening. To get a proven top-4 defenseman the Devils would have had to have given up something much more valuable, and that's a pretty flawed way of rebuilding a team.
Now, I'm not going to tell you that I wasn't disappointed or that my instinctual reaction to this deal was any more excitable than a "meh", but I do feel better about picking up a struggling prospect after realizing that struggling prospect was under the oppressively iron thumb of Peter DeBoer. I am not at liberty to say whether or not Mirco Mueller is going to develop into a solid contributor going forward, but he's definitely going to grow more than he would have being groomed by a coach that does about as well watching over kids as a narcoleptic uncle with a drinking problem. Maybe the Devils' new defenseman is nothing more than a mainstay at the bottom of a terrible lineup, but the lovable Swede that went from "unplayable" to "worth Taylor Hall" with one mid-season firing provides at least a little reason for optimism.
Bottomline, I trust Ray Shero. If there were a better, more shrewd move to be made then the guy who prides himself winning trades wouldn't have thought twice about making it. Clearly New Jersey's scouting department thought highly enough of Mirco Mueller to give away pieces they've spent the last few years acquiring to attain him, and - considering their track record - that's good enough for me.
Preferably he wouldn't have needed protecting, but the benefit of being a bad team is that all it potentially cost them is an oft-injured 20 point scorer with a supreme sense of humor. I love Beau Bennett as much as the next guy, but until he gains the ability to consistently move/carry the puck out of the defensive zone he's only slightly more valuable to this team than an excess second round draft pick that would have been years away from cracking the lineup. Only time will tell whether or not the Devils got hosed, but Mirco Mueller is far more likely to help make their defensive corps simply because it's nearly impossible for someone that skates as well as he does to be so bad that he breaks what's already broken. The skill is definitely there, and that's a lot more than can be said for the handful of players that got exposed in favor of a guy with what amounts to half an NHL season under his belt.