For the third time in as many pro seasons, Muse began at the ECHL level, this time with Fort Wayne after the Carolina Hurricanes declined an opportunity to extend his contract over the summer. Though injuries or, in one rare case, the end of a lockout, saw him gradually make his way back into the fold in previous years, his latest reappearance was his quickest and most successful yet.
Immediately upon signing a professional tryout contract on Oct. 23, just one game into his tenure with Fort Wayne, Muse set a new team record with a shutout streak over 154 minutes long, including perfect performances in each of his first two games. He would go on to become the winningest goalie in team history, both single season (27-18-0) and all-time (44), earning a pair of AHL Player of the Week awards and cementing himself as the clear No. 1 option along the way.
- Posted franchise records for wins in a single-season (27), all-time wins (44) and longest shutout streak (154:04)
- Tied Justin Peters for most all-time shutouts in team history (7)
- Ranked tied for fourth in AHL wins and fifth with 1,305 saves
- Two-time AHL Player of the Week
- Five shutouts ranked tied for third in the AHL and were the second most by a Checkers goalie in a single season
- Four separate winning streaks of five or more games
- Won all four of his shootouts, stopping 16 of 20 shots
“He’s a perfect example of what you can do with an opportunity,” said coach Jeff Daniels.
The question now is if his standout season earned him the opportunity to finally start a season as a Checker. It’s a process that’s likely to take some time, depending on the organization’s fluid goaltending structure and the subsequent falling of dominos from the top down.
There’s little question that the Checkers will need at least one experienced goalie next season, with Daniel Altshuller, a third-round pick in 2012, the only goaltender currently under contract aside from Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin. Could that be Justin Peters, if he re-signs as an unrestricted free agent and the Hurricanes hang on to both Ward and Khudobin? If so, there may not be as much room for Muse. Mike Murphy, set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time, is also in the picture, though he’s struggled to get in a rhythm for one reason or another over the last two seasons.
If Peters is unavailable, either because he becomes the Hurricanes’ full-time backup or signs elsewhere, Muse could be an ideal fit to hold the No. 1 job in Charlotte while Altshuller’s development continues. The only question would be whether or not the Hurricanes are comfortable having him as their No. 3 option within the organization – a position that has held particular importance due to injury struggles in recent years. Though recalled to provide backup two seasons ago, Muse has yet to play an NHL game.
If he doesn’t end up being the right fit for what the Hurricanes and Checkers need in this particular summer, Muse’s track record should at least be enough to secure him an AHL job somewhere else, whether it’s on a two-way contract at the NHL level or another strictly AHL deal. It’s easy to forget now, but the Checkers were probably lucky to snap him back up from the ECHL as quickly as they did, before someone else had the opportunity.
“Going forward we’ll see what happens,” said Daniels. “He proved that he’s a capable goalie at this level.”