Chris Mueller is a temporary fix, but the Rangers will be better for it

Rangers look to plug a hole with a temporary fix in Mueller (Photo: Paul J. Bereswill)

Rangers look to plug a hole with a temporary fix in Mueller (Photo: Paul J. Bereswill)

Yesterday, the NY Rangers decided to call up Chris Mueller from Hartford in an effort to have a more “seasoned” center in the lineup. In the process they sent down both prospects, JT Miller and Jesper Fast.

The move can be interpreted in many ways, especially when it comes to JT Miller, but I’m here to tell you it’s not in an effort to trade him. JT Miller is only 21 years old and possesses the speed, size and skill to succeed in the NHL, all he is missing is the mindset.

JT Miller will need to work on his game (Getty)

JT Miller will need to work on his game (Getty)

To be honest, he wasn’t put into a position to succeed and isn’t the only struggling Ranger, i.e. Carl Hagelin. The injury to Derek Stepan thrusted him into more minutes against tougher opposition. He did not have the benefit of being sheltered on a 3rd or 4th line to slowly ease into this season. A trip back to Hartford to play 20 minutes a night and gain confidence makes sense.

As for Jesper Fast, he’s better playing in Hartford than sitting in a press box. I believe AV wants him in the lineup but is overstocked with older grinders like Ryan Malone and Tanner Glass on the wings. Rumor has it that Arizona Coyotes GM, Don Maloney was seen talking with Glen Sather recently. With the impending returns of both Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle from injury, Slats could be looking to unload one of those veterans for cap space.

Now for Chris Mueller, he is a temporary stop gap at best. The 28 year old journeyman had a decent camp but only has 8 points in 46 career NHL games. He will allow AV to put Marty St. Louis back on his natural RW. The move should see an expected boost in productivity, now that he can shed his defensive responsibilities at center. What will be interesting is how the head coach will juggle his lines to fit.

The Game of Musical Lines

Mueller seems destined to center the 4th line but with whom? Glass or Malone will be on it depending on the look AV wants versus San Jose. Could struggling Carl Hagelin drop to a 4th line role or maybe rookie Anthony Duclair? Does Hayes get a shot at the #1 center spot with Nash on his left and MSL on his right? Or does Kreider move up on the top unit and MSL play with Brass, moving Zucc to the left side? The possibilities here are endless.

New York Rangers' Martin St. Louis (26) and Derek Stepan (21)  (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

New York Rangers’ Martin St. Louis (26) and Derek Stepan (21) (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

What we know is this, it’s all temporary up-front. When Derek Stepan returns, balance will be struck. However, what this injury has forced the Blueshirts to do is play out of position and with almost everyone on the roster. It is a lesson that will bode well late into the season and in the playoffs where it will matter most.

Injuries happen in hockey, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. For the 2014-15 NY Rangers, it will make them wiser too.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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