Will Stephen Weiss Be Biggest Free Agent Bust in Detroit Red Wings History?

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Will Stephen Weiss Be Biggest Free Agent Bust in Detroit Red Wings History?
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

After an up-and-down start to the 2013-14 season, the Detroit Red Wings seem to have finally found some consistency.

Even without star players like Pavel Datsyuk (and now, Henrik Zetterberg) in the lineup, the Red Wings have managed to execute on a game plan that has allowed them to win four games in a row and outscore their opposition 18-4.

Of course, the Red Wings found themselves on a similar hot streak a month ago and then, as now, center Stephen Weiss had absolutely nothing to do with it.

In point of fact, but for a few games to start the season, Weiss has been all but irrelevant in Detroit.

Weiss is currently centering Detroit's fourth line along with fellow underwhelming teammates Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary. With a collective price tag of $9.65 million, this is easily the most expensive fourth line in the NHL.

However, general manager Ken Holland will breathe a sigh of relief next summer when Samuelsson’s $3 million salary and Cleary’s $1.75 million paycheck come off the books as both will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. Both players are almost certainly playing their last games as Red Wings—at any price point.

Weiss, on the other hand, is scheduled to remain Detroit’s third-highest paid forward through 2018, and that fact is liable to make Holland catch his breath mid-exhale.

At this point, seeking the reasons why Weiss has become nothing but a complete flop of a signing is irrelevant; the only thing that matters now is that he has proven to be exactly that.

Should Weiss continue on at his current pace (and playing alongside equally ineffective wingers, there’s no reason to think he won’t), he may turn out to be one of the biggest busts in Detroit Red Wings history.

Stephen Weiss' Projected Cost of Production
Goals Assists Games Played Points
Current 2 1 22 3
Projected 7 3 76 10
Projected cost per item $790k $1.6 million $64, 473 $490,000

tsn.ca; capgeek.com

Now, while some have argued that Uwe Krupp currently holds that title, one must remember that Krupp was signed in the free-wheeling days before the NHL salary cap.  While a four-year, $16.4 million contract (Krupp's deal at the time) isn't something to sneeze at in any era, the fact that this deal didn't prevent Detroit from spending more money on another player is an important one to recognize.

Stephen Weiss has a no-movement clause and is ineligible to be bought out under a recent change to the collective bargaining agreement.  All of his $4.9 million salary is set to hit the cap for the next four seasons.

Krupp may have been a gigantic bust, but at least his contract did not handicap the organization in any significant way.

All this isn't to say that Weiss' signing is somehow a huge mistake on Holland’s part.

Given Weiss' long history in the NHL, career scoring record and style of play, he looked to be an ideal fit for the Red Wings and was widely considered to be one of the better signings of the 2013 free-agency period.

Indeed, for the better part of his 10 seasons in Florida, Weiss displayed the kind of speed, offensive flare and two-way instincts that have become prototypical of many Detroit forwards.

However, after scoring three points in 22 games with the Red Wings, Weiss appears to be completely out of his element and incapable of generating even a hint of offensive prowess.

Is there time left for Weiss to improve, perhaps even dramatically?

Sure there is.

However, with Darren Helm's surprisingly strong return to the lineup earning him a promotion to the second-line center position, the job for which Weiss was acquired is no longer his to lose—he's lost it.

In fact, in order for Weiss to take back the spot handed to him upon his arrival in Detroit, Helm would likely need to decline and Weiss elevate his play to a level and at a pace that is far from likely.

Given Weiss' utterly uninspired play, his current role as an ineffective fourth-line center and the fact that the only forwards with higher salaries than his are named "Datsyuk" and "Zetterberg," it seems all but impossible that he will come close to playing up to the value of his contract this season.

As such, the Red Wings may have one of the worst contracts in franchise history on their hands as the reality of Weiss' value, or lack thereof, remains as stark as it is perplexing.

***NOTE***

The original version of this article contained a factual error and has been edited accordingly. 

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