For the past few months there has been speculation involving long time Florida Panther and fan favorite, Stephen Weiss. Just like any other “top” player in their contract year, trade rumors have begun whirling around the internet that Stephen Weiss will be dealt before the April 3rd deadline. But even prior to last season, Weiss’ name has been heavily involved in the rumor mill despite having a six-year contract worth $18.6 million, not to mention a full no-movement clause.
Coming off one of his most notable seasons with 57 points in 80 games, Weiss could be amongst the top sought after free agent centers along with Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Ribiero, and Derek Roy. This means the Panthers have one of two obvious choices. They can either resign Weiss and keep him as our number one center, or they can deal him off to another team and quite possibly get someone of importance back. Unfortunately this is a business and I believe that resigning Weiss to another lengthy contract would hang heavily on the future of our franchise.
For the past eleven years, Stephen Weiss has been considered one of the most loyal, and biggest crowd pleasers to ever put on a Panthers sweater. He has a rare quality about him that not many center men posses. He is one of the few players who can take control of the power play and shut it down on the penalty kill. But unfortunately, Weiss has been thrust into the number one position for the Panthers, when in reality, his production level would likely be considered 2nd line worthy to most other teams in the National Hockey League. Weiss’ best season was in 2008-2009 when he tallied 61 points in 78 games with a +19 rating. Since then he has seen 40, 50, and 60 point seasons. Clearly, Weiss has stayed fairly consistent in his years with the Panthers, but is his continuous and slightly above average consistency worth another lengthy contract? With his $3.1 million dollar a year contract up at the end of the season, Weiss will undoubtedly be looking for a much pricier paycheck. Especially after New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac (whose career high was 67 points), just signed an eight-year contract averaging $5,750,000 a year. With Zajac making this amount of money (which seems a bit over-priced), it puts a much heavier load on the Panthers. Is Weiss really worth that kind of money?
Below are a few players that make close to the same amount Stephen Weiss would likely be making if he is resigned:
Corey Perry: Arguably one of the most dangerous forwards in the National Hockey League, Perry is coming to the end of his five-year, $5,325,000 contract which began in 2008 when he registered 72 points and 109 PIMs. Two years later Perry would go on to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the leagues MVP.
Henrik Sedin: This Sedin brother is one of the most outstanding play makers in the league making around $6,100,000 a year. Sedin, won both the Hart and the Art-Ross Trophies as well as making an appearance in the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup finals.
James Neal: Last year Neal signed a six year, $5,000,000 contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He earned a career high of 81 points the same year and was chosen to take part in his first NHL All-Star game.
Loui Eriksson: The Dallas Stars best player earned a six-year, $4,250,000 contract that came in effect during the 2011-2012 season. Eriksson has seen three, 70+ point consecutive seasons with the Stars thus far and appeared in one NHL All-Star game.
These are players who have clearly proven themselves to be among the leagues elite players, the majority on the top line. These are player who are worth the mass amounts of money they are making by winning awards, winning Stanley Cups, and appearing year after year in the playoffs. While Stephen Weiss has remained consistent, keep in mind that in eleven years with the NHL he has never been invited to an NHL All-Star game (not like it matters), he has never been nominated for any major awards, and has only appeared in one play-off series. Setting aside his loyalty and his fan popularity, is it really worth tying up a 31-year-old to another extended contract who has probably reached or is close to his full potential?
Since Weiss is coming off of one of his best seasons yet, his trade value will be much higher than ever before. With tons of elite teams struggling to put the puck in the net, I believe he could be of great value to another team. If you put him with the right set of players, he can really produce some magic. Weiss is more of a play maker than a goal scorer and I think it’s quite apparent the Panthers have plenty of those to go around. If we can package Weiss with another player or a solid draft pick, I feel we could really shake things up here in Florida. Bottom line is, the Panthers need goal scorers. We cannot sit content with players who are stellar at creating plays and chances, but can only score 20 goals year after year. We need change. And sometimes change is good. Panther fans got a large dose of change last season when David Booth, the pretty face of the Florida Panthers, was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. Well, look what happened. That same year we made it to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. I think we fared pretty well. Don’t you think?
I understand this is a very touchy subject to Panther fans and I’d hate to see him go as he has been the heart and soul of this organization for the past eleven years. But if the Panthers cannot get a deal done to re-sign him, then a trade would likely become immanent to avoid losing him to free agency at the end of the season, similar to what happened with Jay Bouwmeester a few years back when we traded him for basically nothing. And with Nick Bjugstad, Drew Shore, and Jonathan Huberdeau making their way up to the NHL level, as well as a young and impressive Peter Mueller whose contract is also up at the end of the year, does this mean the time has come for the Florida Panthers to finally let Stephen Weiss go?
Thank you for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions!
Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @RatTrickLewiz , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht@joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, David Rodriguez @davidbub_2, Frank Rekas @TheRatTrick, Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Adam Reid@AdamReid Chrissy Parente @chrissaay44, Justen Rosenberg @justenrosenberg, Lori Carpenter @lmcangel13, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530. Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.