New General Manager Dale Tallon is ready to remake this team in his image. He has challenged the players to prove they should be a part of his plan. Even before Tallon was hired, ownership warned the fans that big changes were in store and asked that judgement be reserved until the process is complete. They have essentially let it be known that no one is untouchable anymore and all players are potentially available to interested teams. Assistant GM Mike Santos has additionally stated that no contract negotiations will take place with the team's pending unrestricted free agents before the end of the season. With the Panthers several points out of a playoff spot with less than a month to the trade deadline, the time has come for Tallon to make changes. Over the next couple of weeks, LBC will be profiling some of the more prominent members of the Panthers roster.
Player: Stephen Weiss
Contract: $3.2mil 2010-2011, $4mil 2011-2012, $4.1mil 2012-2013
Pro-Rated Cap Hit: $683,333*/$3.1mil#
Panthers Tenure: 2002-Present. Drafted 2001 by the Panthers; Rookie season 2002-2003.
Stephen Weiss' career statistics
*All pro-rated cap hits approximate. #Weiss' cap hit is split between cap space needed this season to take on his contract and cap space needed in the two remaining seasons on his deal.
Stephen Weiss was drafted by the Panthers in 2001 and has played for them for his entire NHL career. He is a franchise player who has repeatedly said he wants to stay with the team who drafted him. Though he has taken heat from some fans who don't think he's a true first-line center, his numbers are in line with other teams' first-line centers who aren't named Crosby or Stamkos.
Weiss is in the top 30 centers in the league in most stats. His 15 goals are enough to be tied for 22nd place with four other players including Alexander Steen and Derek Stepan, as well as Panthers second-line center Michael Santorelli. His 22 assists ties him for 34th place with three other players including Ryan Kesler and Scott Gomez. His two shorthanded goals have him tied for 5th with six other players and he is one of the 21 centers to score a goal in overtime this season. Additionally, his faceoff percentage (540% 24th) is very good. The top 30 forwards in this category are a mix of grinders like David Steckel and Zenon Konopka and top-line centers like Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. Where he falls off the charts is plus-minus, power play goals and game winning goals. His total points is good enough to tie him at 29th, just behind David Krejci and Derick Brassard.
Weiss appearing at the bottom of these lists does not put him at the bottom of the league for top line centers. Several teams are particularly strong down the middle and their top two line centers are in the top 30 in goals, assists and points. Those four are Philadelphia, San Jose, Colorado and Boston. Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Dallas have two centers in two of the three categories and Calgary, Florida, St. Louis, Carolina and the New York Rangers have at least two centers in one of the categories. Ottawa, Edmonton, Atlanta, Phoenix and Nashville have no centers in the top 30 for goals, assists or points. Ottawa and Edmonton have no centers in the top 30 in any scoring category.
Looking back at last season, Weiss was 25th in overall points with 60, including 28 goals, both of which were top on the Panthers. Weiss' linemates to start the year were Nathan Horton, who missed 17 games with a broken leg and David Booth, who missed 54 games after getting a concussion. Compare this with Vinny Prospal, who had two fewer points playing on a line with Marion Gaborik or Travis Zajac who had 67 points on a line with Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner. This year, without Parise, Zajac is tied for 110th place with 33 points and without Weiss, Nathan Horton is on pace for 52 points, 5 shy of what he had in only 65 games last year.
Who may have interest: Boston and Pittsburgh have been mentioned as possible destinations for Weiss. Both are missing key centers for their team. The Bruins' Marc Savard will miss the rest of the season due to a concussion while the Penguins have lost Evgeni Malkin to a knee injury and are currently also without Sidney Crosby, who is suffering post-concussion symptoms. Because of the long-term injuries, both teams should have the cap space this year to make the deal. The Penguins, however, do not have enough room next year for Weiss' cap hit and would have to trade someone to make space before the start of next season. The Bruins have several large contracts expiring, including those of Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler. Additionally, if Savard misses the beginning of next season, the Bruins might be able to re-sign most of those players and delay cap compliance until Savard's return. Washington has also been mentioned as a destination for Weiss, but that may be only by fans hopeful he doesn't get traded to the Penguins. The Capitals have space this year and Mike Knuble's expiring contract has around the cap hit of Weiss'.
Why he'll be traded: Weiss is a strong second-line center who can play special teams and can play top-line if need be. He's strong on the puck and though considered soft by some Panthers fans because he doesn't hit hard, he regularly plays through injuries and misses few games in a season. He's proved his worth to the Panthers in that they've lost most of the games he's missed in the last few seasons.
What will the Panthers get back: Weiss is signed for two more seasons and is a big part of the team. Unlike players with expiring contracts, the Panthers will not want more than draft picks back in any trade. Any deal that happens will look more like the recent deal that sent Michael Frolik to Chicago or the off-season deals that saw Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell traded to the Bruins and Keith Ballard traded to the Canucks than the recent deal the Senators made that sent Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators.
Why he'll stay: Weiss is too important to this team to trade him for less than a stellar deal. He's committed to staying with the Panthers and being a part of their resurgence. His no-movement clause became active this year, giving him veto power over any impending deal.