NHL Trade Rumors: Why Bruins Should Pursue Upcoming UFA Stephen Weiss

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NHL Trade Rumors: Why Bruins Should Pursue Upcoming UFA Stephen Weiss
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The Florida Panthers have to re-sign star center Stephen Weiss before the April 3 trade deadline or they will risk losing one of their most valuable players for nothing when the 29-year-old forward is eligible for free agency.

Per Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:

There is talk C Stephen Weiss, a UFA on July 1, will be gone before the deadline because the Panthers don't have the cash to sign him.

If Weiss wants a similar contract to the one that Travis Zajac signed with the New Jersey Devils before the season, which was $46 million over eight years, the Panthers would be wise to trade him.

Weiss isn't worth that much money to Florida when top prospects Nick Bjugstad (University of Minnesota) and Rocco Grimaldi (University of North Dakota) project to be quality NHL centers.

ESPN Boston's Jimmy Murphy provided an update on Weiss earlier this week.

Murphy is absolutely correct. One team that should try to acquire Weiss is the Boston Bruins, who need to add another top-six caliber forward with a high level of offensive skill before the playoffs.

The Bruins rank 14th in goals scored, and have just four forwards with more than four points through the first eight games of the season. Brad Marchand is the only Bruins player who has scored more than three goals, and a number of the team's top-nine forwards are struggling offensively.

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Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Patrice Bergeron and Chris Bourque have scored only one goal this season, while third-line center Chris Kelly still hasn't found the back of the net after scoring a career-high 20 goals last year.

Boston was the only NHL team to have six 20-goal scorers last year (the team as a whole finished second in goals scored), but in the early part of this season, it appears that head coach Claude Julien won't have this kind of scoring depth in 2013.

Julien's third line has failed to be productive this season, and not having this line contribute offensively really hurts the Bruins' depth. Last year, Boston was one of the few teams with three lines that could score goals against anyone, but that isn't the case this season.

Kelly, Peverley and Bourque have played most of the year together on the third line, and have scored just two goals with four assists and a plus/minus rating of minus-10 combined.

Weiss' natural position is center, but he's versatile enough to play on the wing and would be a huge upgrade over Bourque, who has not contributed much to the Bruins offense at even strength or on the power-play.

Speaking of the power play, the Bruins are once again one of the worst power-play teams in the league, and even though they have achieved a lot of success over the last few years despite their struggles with the man advantage, this is one area of the team that must improve before the playoffs.

Boston's power play ranks 28th in the league with just three goals in 30 opportunities. Weiss' playmaking ability would be a big boost to this facet of the game. He has six straight seasons of 28 or more assists and has scored 20 or more goals in each of the last three years.

The Panthers forward possesses great speed and athleticism, plus a number of effective moves to use on opposing skaters and goaltenders. He also has a high hockey IQ and is responsible defensively.

Weiss has played well against Northeast Division opponents over the last two seasons despite not having a lot of top-tier offensive talent around him. Take a look at his stats versus the Northeast from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons combined.

Northeast Opponent GP G A P
Buffalo Sabres 8 2 3 5
Montreal Canadiens 7 4 2 6
Ottawa Senators 8 1 2 3
Toronto Maple Leafs 7 3 3 6
Totals 30 9 10 19

Weiss would be very motivated to perform at a high level if he was traded to the Bruins because a successful career in Boston could help him earn a ton of money as a free agent.

With the Bruins, Weiss would get another opportunity to prove himself in the playoffs. Last year's first-round series against the New Jersey Devils was Weiss' first trip to the playoffs, and he was one of the Panthers' best players with two goals and three assists in seven games.

Weiss does have a no-move clause in his contract, but it wouldn't be surprising if he waived it to allow a trade to a playoff contender.

The Bruins are close the salary cap with just over $3 million in cap space, according to Capgeek, and would probably need to send some salary back to Florida to take on Weiss' $3.1 million cap hit for this season.

However, since he is eligible to become a free agent on July 5, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli wouldn't have to make a commitment to the star center beyond this season if he didn't live up to expectations and/or failed to fit in well with the team.

The Panthers are fortunate to have a lot of top-tier prospects, but they don't have many talented offensive defensemen.

Maxim Chudinov and Torey Krug are two young defenseman that Chiarelli could offer Panthers general manage Dale Tallon in a potential deal for Weiss, as well as forward prospects Jared Knight (right wing), Ryan Spooner (center) and Alexander Khokhlachev (center).

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Tallon isn't going to let Weiss go without getting as close to fair value as possible, but the Bruins do have the assets to get a deal done. Since the 2013 NHL draft is full of depth and talent, Boston's first-round pick may also be of value to Florida even though it will probably be a late-round selection.

Chiarelli last made a trade with the Panthers before the 2010-11 season when he acquired forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell, who both spent multiple seasons in Florida as teammates with Weiss.

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup that season, with Horton and Campbell playing important roles on the team. Another big trade with the Panthers involving Weiss could result in another championship parade in Boston this June.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He's also covered the Boston Bruins since the 2010-11 season, and was B/R's on-site reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. All quotes obtained firsthand or from Bruins media website.

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