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.

Last season’s Red Wings had to live with the reality of a Lidstrom-less existence. It showed more in their finishing 21st in goals for than other parts of their game. Datsyuk and Zetterberg put in heroic efforts over the shortened season that the two aging stars may or may not be able to duplicate in a full season. Jimmy Howard turned in a career year for GAA and nearly matching his previous best sv% as well. The Red Wing’s in the standings swung back and forth like a pendulum, bringing them back and forth from 11th to 4th and finally coming to rest with them in 7th place. In the opening round of the playoffs they squared off against the Anaheim Ducks, and quickly fell behind. The Ducks proved unable to put them away and then take the eventual Cup winners to seven games.

In the off season they added the soon to be 41 year old Daniel Alfredsson and former Florida Panther Stephen Weiss. They’ve also gotten their wish to shift from the west to the east. The travel schedule may be more brutal in the west, but the physicality of hockey isn’t quite the same. The Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders will all happily throw the body at a prodigious rate and there are other teams not far behind. To open the season, the Wings make themselves known to their new conference rivals interrupted only by a clash with the Coyotes. Opening night will have them hosting the Buffalo Sabres before packing up for Raleigh and a date with the Carolina Hurricanes. On the backend of a Friday/Saturday set on the road they face the new look Boston Bruins, before going home to the Coyotes and Flyers.

Number of days 1-5: 10

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: Boston Bruins

Weakest opponent: Buffalo Sabres

Home games: 3

Projected points: 5

Alfredsson is quoted as saying going to Detroit was a selfish move because he wanted to win. Given the lack of difference overall in quality between his old franchise and new one, we’ll have to see how well that works out. The Olympics could also trip this team up. Datsyuk and Zetterberg will undoubtedly get tapped for their national teams, and Ericsson and Kronwall would be unsurprising choices as well, there is even a chance Alfredsson gets to pull on the national jersey one more time. What that means is almost all their best player could have extra strain, wear and tear, injuries and travel time or illness before the second half.

NHL free agency brings all sorts of bizarre reasoning, usually from general managers, always from the media, and frequently from fans. In this Daniel Alfredsson who was unti he walked away from the Senators the National Hockey League’s longest serving captain. As what is so far the official reason for his departure Alfredsson said the Detroit Red Wings have a better shot at winning the Stanley Cup than the team that drafted him and paid him quite well over the years. According to repors Alfredsson was aware before he walked that Bobby Ryan was (likely) going to the Senators.

Going off of last years playoff statistics, The Ottawa Senators were better at producing goals. The Senators owned a better penalty kill. The Senators also had a better powerplay. As for personnel changes, the Detroit Red Wings have said good bye to center Valtteri Filppula who landed in Tampa Bay. In his place they signed Stephen Weiss who is smaller and older with only seven games of playoff experience in comparison to Filppula’s 105. To this Alfredsson added himself.

The Red Wings and Ottawa Senators will be in the same division this year. Within that new division the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins are clearly better teams. Also in the eastern conference the Pittsburgh Penguins can be expected to turn in a better regular season record, as can the Washington Capitals, the Columbus Blue Jackets were just two points worse than the Wings last year, and have made a significant upgrade at forward. The New York Rangers are a deeper team than the Red Wings, and the Philadelphia Flyers for all their woes and oddities can’t possibly have worse goaltending and defense than last season. As the Red Wings stumbled into the playoffs one point ahead of ninth place in the two team west, it is a bit of a stretch to imagine them as a powerhouse.

With four teams unarguably better than Red Wings stand today in the East it his hard to imagine them getting home ice advantage. With the Senators getting an upgrade in the form of Bobby Ryan, and likely fewer injuries than they saw last season, they too are arguably as strong as the Red Wings. Just looking at last years teams, their statistics and how much the rosters have changed and accounting for major injuries, a case can be made for six or seven teams being better than either the Red Wings or Senators just in the east.

During the Iginla conference call Peter Chiarelli mentioned the Boston Bruins were in contact with Alfredsson’s camp. Of the three teams, and the other teams who signed right wings in the last few days; Montreal, Philadelphia, Columbus, and more, it is hard to argue that the Red Wings give Alfredsson the best chance to win the Cup. He said he’s out of time and that his choice to move on was “selfish” decision. It doesn’t appear to have been a bright move.

Some teams do well at of free agency, others are unmitigated disasters. Today we get pretty good ideas as to what teams will look like in the fall, and which teams are going for it now, next year or no time soon.

Anaheim Ducks: Win. Today they traded star forward Bobby Ryan to the Senators for the Ottawa 1st round pick, Jakob Silfverberg a 2nd round pick, and Stefan Noesen the Senators the 1st round pick out of Plano, Tx from 2011. Good move for the Ducks long term who have very little depth and lots of older players.

Boston Bruins: Win. Adding a hungry veteran who now has recent playoff experience, no bad contracts and overall a younger, hungrier  roster than they started last year with.

Buffalo Sabres: Lose Extending a new deal to Matt Ellis isn’t going to push the Sabres into the playoffs.

Calgary Flames: Lose While they didn’t make any horrible signings (for a change) the contracts they did sign for AHL players and guys who will never be stars don’t push the team forward. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Win They signed a very solid 2nd goalie in Anton Khudobin, and resigned Michal Jordan which is enough to make up for giving a contract to Mike Komisarek.

Colorado Avalanche:

Chicago Blackhawks Draw. They reupped with Handzus on team friendly deal, but didn’t have the cap space to land any of the big fish on the market, and they lost their top end backup today.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Draw Nathan Horton is a great addition, the contract term is less than ideal. Signings other than Bobrovsky are non impacting.

Dallas Stars: Draw While there are defensive signings they could have made, and arguably better goaltenders, but with the moves they made on the fourth they don’t really need to do much to improve over last season.

Detroit Red Wings: Draw They opened the floodgates to renewed eastern conference rivalries by poaching Daniel Alfredsson, signed Stephen Weiss long term, but still didn’t shore up a mediocre defense. 

Edmonton Oilers: Win They improve their defense both by the addition of Ference and the subtraction of others, they didn’t give out any horrible contracts or let anyone of value get away.

Florida Panthers: Lose They are in a much, much tougher division this year and for the next couple years and did nothing to fix a woeful team.

Los Angeles Kings Draw No improvements, no idiotic contracts simply adding a depth defenseman.

Minnesota Wild: Lose There was no reason to add Matt Cooke to the roster, it won’t make them a better team, they already have a solid penalty kill and beyond that they traded a roster player for a draft pick and kept to depth defensemen.

Montreal Canadiens Draw Danny Briere is a good get for a pretty thin market. Compared to Mike Fisher and David Booth who have the same cap hit, Briere is not so bad. You can always do more, and you can clearly do worse.

Nashville Predators: Lose Victor Stalberg is a solid get. The other signings for the love of hockey why?

New Jersey Devils Huh? This is the team that was bankrupt not too long ago right? They sign Michael Ryder to a really solid contract, they sign Ryane Clowe to a contact that will be the NHL’s go to punchline for the next several years, they resigned Patrik Elias until he’s eligible for social security. On top of that they have Dainius Zubrus signed until a week past decomposition. These contracts are a bit much to get their hands on Centrum Silver’s advertising dollars.

New York Islanders Win Locking up Travis Hamonic long term for not much money is big enough that all their other moves are irrelevant.

New York Rangers Lose I think Glen Sather overslept and his secretary just signed guys that were once on good teams. Benoit Pouliot, Aaron Johnson, and other players 85% of Rangers fans won’t be able to name at the All Star/Olympic break.

Ottawa Senators Win Getting Bobby Ryan without having to give up any core pieces is pretty spiffy. Sure they lost captain Daniel Alfredsson but in fairness his ability was not at the same level it was five years ago, and he was looking for more money than Ryan who is still in his prime.

Philadelphia Flyers Win (I kid, I kid!) It almost doesn’t matter who they signed because they didn’t hand out an absurd contract on day one (they got Streit and Lecavalier handled early) oh wait, they gave Giroux (multiple concussions) that contract and an eminently redundant no movement clause, because those really mean something in Philly. Emery is a good get, and that’s about it for the positives.

Phoenix Arizona Coyotes Win Adding Ribeiro at center is an upgrade even if you only look at his Dallas years, adding Greiss as a solid backup means Smith might not have to play 70 games.

Pittsburgh Penguins Draw Correcting the mistake that lead to Rob Scuderi being let go after they won the cup is all well and good, but four years too late. They also don’t have enough cap space to add a 12th forward.

San Jose Sharks Lose Over the cap, and undertalented.

Saint Louis Blues Lose No viable movement, and a core that isn’t getting any younger.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lose Nothing says “cluefree” like signing a forward who has never topped 23 goals to a five year five million a year contract and failing to improve the teams biggest weakness.

Toronto Maple Leafs Lose The Clarkson signing is for about three years too long, the Bozak signing is so-so, and the Grabovski buyout is inexcusable.

Vancouver Canucks: Win Brad Richardson is a solid addition at a good price, and Yannick Webber may prove to be a find for their defense.

Washington Capitals: Draw Adam Oates made good strides with the team last year, prospects and getting Karl Alzner inked should get them to as good or better than their place last year.

Winnipeg Jets: Win No free agent signings (shocking I know) but they did pick up a solid forward addition in a trade for a reasonable price.

The fact that the Boston Bruins powerplay is mostly useless has been as well kept a secret as Pittsburgh hosting the 2012 NHL All-Star game. The Bruins powerplay has been dissected here, and elsewhere ad nauseum. Something I haven’t seen, and wonder why not is what a former keystone of the Bruins powerplay brought that the current centers and top forwards don’t.

While Tyler Seguin is undoubtedly a faster skater, and more willing shooter than Marc Savard there is one important things he’s not. Patrice Bergeron is getting the lions share of powerplay time for the Bruins this year which has brought it well above the level it performed at over the playoffs, but neither he nor Sequin possess the trait that might just help get the Bruins into the top ten (or higher) powerplays in the leauge. Guess what, even though he’s capable of some nifty passes David Krejci, like Bergeron and Seguin is a right handed center.

Marc Savard is a lefty. While it’d be nice to get him back in the mix on a lot of counts, it’s unlikely it will happen soon. Than means the Bruins need to look at options other than Bergeron, Krejci and Seguin to be able to get shots and passes from the same angles as Savard provided. Rich Peverley who is irregularly slotted into the center position is a right handed shot as well. Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand are both lefties. Marchand while frequently listed as a center hasn’t taken regular shifts in that position while in a Boston uniform Kelly is a lot of things, most of them of high value to his club, but offensively explosive is not on the list. Zach Hamill while a solid passer is again a right handed shot, everyone else in the system is either two or more years from the NHL or injured.

Elsewhere in the NHL, there are a couple possibilities. Dale Tallon has shown a great deal of shyness in turning over the roster of the Florida Panthers. Stephen Weiss is a left handed center about the same size as David Krejci, is one of the last Panthers who is a legacy of the previous management, and has put up pretty solid numbers despite lacking talent around him.  His cap hit is more than manageable, but with his and the teams good start he might be reluctant to waive his no movement clause even to be reunited with Campbell and Horton even if it means moving to a slightly more hockey focused market.

The Colorado Avalanche have a great powerplay,  have some difficulty five on five, and possess two remarkably similar left handed centers. Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny are within about an inch of each other in height a couple pounds in weight, and produce similar results all across the stat sheet. The two biggest differences are in salary and age. Despite better goaltending this year, they are again in the bottom third of the league for goals against and penalty killing. A deal between Boston and Colorado that brought back one of these centers, and sent over a penalty killer should benefit both teams.

A possibility that has a few more faults built into it is a trade with the Capitals.  Washington is already a power house regular season team that has put a lot of work into adding players who get it in the playoffs as well. It is highly likely that head coach Bruce Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee could have the opportunity to explore new positions if the team can’t make it at least to the Stanley Cup finals, something the franchise has never done. For them, adding a player who has succeed not just against them, and won the Stanley Cup but led the NHL in post season points in David Krejci if he were exchanged for Brooks Laich. If that’s what McFee and Chiarelli decided on, the Bruins gain their left handed center, finally gain a top three center over 200 pounds, get a left handed player who plays in all situations (as Krejci has), and the Capitals gain a playoff performer, cap space and possibly gain the missing element needed to go deep in the playoffs.