The circumstances surrounding Stephen Weiss’ injury from little over a week ago have raised some questions about his future with the Florida Panthers. He was originally listed as a healthy scratch before the Panthers fourth game of the season. His status was then changed to injured, and there was no real timeline for his recovery. The Panthers listed Weiss as day-to-day with a lower body injury and he just played his first game with the club since his injury, notching an assist in a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. He was also only one second short of his previous season high in ice time at 19:46.
For as long as the Panthers have been bad (a very long time) Weiss’ name has appeared in trade rumours. Last year was probably the quietest year of Weiss speculation, but that’s because they finally looked like a respectable hockey club. They have come back down to earth, and his name is back in the rumor mill.
Weiss is in the final year of a 6 year 18.6 million dollar contract, that carries a cap hit of 3.1 million. If Weiss really is available, the contract could go either way for the Florida Panthers. Paying 3.1 million for a first line center is something general managers dream of. In the short term, for serious Stanley Cup contenders, his contract is great. On the converse, it is the final year of that contract and he is set to hit free agency. There is no telling if he will re-sign with whichever team might get him, which throws him into the rent a player category.
There will be no shortage of potential destinations if Weiss is available. Toronto has had interest in Weiss for as long as his name has been in the rumour mill. Roberto Luongo has been linked to Florida several times, and the Panthers horrid goaltending this season might make them more willing to part with Weiss for the elite goaltender. Vancouver also has a serious need for an NHL ready center with Alex Burrows being forced to anchor the second line, and Jordan Schroeder the third. There is also little to no certainty regarding when Ryan Kesler will return, which will definitely add to the Canucks interest in acquiring Weiss.
Another team that really should be kicking the tires on Weiss has to be the Calgary Flames. For as long as Jay Feaster wants to pretend that the Flames are a playoff team, they might as well continue to manage as one. The Flames have needed a first line center since their last cup run. Although Weiss is much better suited to being a second line center, he’s no stranger to the first line. Depending on the cost, this could be the perfect fit for Calgary. He is just the kind of play making center that could make the Flames first line look like one, and get Jarome Iginla going. For as long as this delusion of playoff contention continues, it will rely solely upon the production of Iginla and time has shown us again and again that converting old left wingers to center hasn’t worked for him. Tanguay is faring no better this year. Bring in Stephen Weiss, and he just might have the play making center he’s needed so desperately all these years.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @WeveGotTwins for more hockey analysis, commentary, and stats. His Canucks blog can be found at http://www.WeveGotTwins.blogspot.ca