This summer the Florida Panthers an Stephen Weiss parted company. The 30 year old Toronto native had played 654 regular season games as a member of the Sunrise squad. In all those seasons he only saw the playoffs once. When that time came to an end, he left for what many pencil in as a playoff lock each year. Stephen Weiss, like Daniel Alfredsson went to Detroit to have a shot at a cup, with just four points in 26 games, he is not living up to his end of the bargain.
The contract Weiss signed made him the third highest paid skater on the team. Entering tonight’s action Weiss has 13 players ahead of him on the wings roster in goals. Sixteen men are head of Weiss in total scoring. Weiss has had injuries, but he’s not played well even when he’s been healthy. His shooting percentage is down, he isn’t scoring, and he looks out of place on the ice, when he’s visible at all.
A buyout would be a rare thing for the Detroit Red Wings, and should only be considered in light of the status of the rest of the team. Zetterberg, despite edging reluctantly into the latter stages of his career isn’t even in the top five for age on the Wings, one of the NHL’s three oldest teams.Datsyuk will be 36 before the start of next season, those two are the heart and soul of the team. Add in Alfredsson, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, Cleary, and Franzen as players currently 33 or over and you might get the idea this team is in for an enormous amount of turnover. While defensemen tend to stick around at the peak of their powers longer, it should also be noted that Niklas Kronwall will be 33 before the season ends.
With this year’s Winter Classic part of the plan to fund a (long overdue) replacement for the Joe Louis Area soon to pass, and the decades long playoff streak coming to an organic end, it might just be time to accelerate the rebuild. With the need to let younger, hungrier and more talented players like Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, and Danny DeKeyser needing both new contracts and more responsibility to build the future around, Weiss could find his stay in Detroit shorter than expected.
What the decision will come down to is the Red Wings front office level of belief in Weiss’s ability to bounce back to the level of an average 2nd line center he’s played his career as. With multiple wrist injuries, ankle issues, groin issues, knee problems, shoulder ailments and the ubiquitous “upper body and lower body” injuries that belief might be hard to muster in any quantity. The other factor will be what they expect the rest of their elder players to produce in the next three years. While Datsyuk and Zetterberg are likely to be productive at least two more years each, they might better serve the team on someone else’s roster in exchange for younger, healthier, and less expensive assets.
It can be argued that the Wings owe it to Weiss to give him a full season, or that his health problems are just poor luck. Those arguments are not convincing. More importantly, the health one has more than enough momentum to make it clear this signing was questionable in the first place, and won’t improve in the future. With the need to spend to the salary floor, even if Ken Holland and company decide not to buy him out, it is an open question if Weiss will play for the Red Wings next season.