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Detroit Red Wings: Will Legwand's Early Success Make Stephen Weiss Expendable?

Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss (90) follows the puck against the Buffalo Sabres in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press
Isaac SmithAnalyst IMarch 8, 2014

The Detroit Red Wings' decision to acquire center David Legwand instead of a defenseman at the NHL trade deadline magnified a problem that has been hiding since mid-December.

When the Detroit Red Wings traded for David Legwand just minutes before the NHL trade deadline passed, the only thing that was for sureaccording to what Ken Holland told reporterswas that the Red Wings were getting a "bona fide center iceman." 

The Red Wings got their center iceman, but with Legwand contributing to the lineup (a goal and two assists against New Jersey on Friday night), a problem—named Stephen Weissremains.

As Detroit is without the services of its top three centers in Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm, Legwand provides an excellent short-term solution, but creates a long-term problem. Ansar Khan of MLive.com thinks "there’s a good chance the Red Wings will re-sign [Legwand] before he hits free agency in July."

But in order to re-sign Legwand, Detroit would likely be forced to cut ties with center Stephen Weiss.

Legwand's expiring contract carries a cap hit of $4.5 million, but that is less expensive than Stephen Weiss' hit of $4.9 million. Much like Legwand's deal before he agreed to move to Detroit, Weiss' contract carries a no-trade clause.

Weiss has picked up just four points in 26 games this season. While he has missed more than half of the Red Wings' games with injuries—having not played since December 10Legwand has three-quarters of the points that Weiss has produced this year in just one-13th of the games played for Detroit.

Weiss was one of the two major Red Wings signings during the free-agency period in the summer, but with Legwand already playing better at both ends of the ice in two games with Detroit, it will be very interesting to see how Red Wings management handles the Weiss-Legwand situation going into the playoffs.

Fundamentally speaking, the Red Wings have no need to pay their top three centers (Datsyuk, Weiss and Legwand) a combined $16.9 million next season.

That $16.9 figure takes into account Datsyuk's new contract of $7.5 million a season, but doesn't take into consideration Legwand's new cap hit, which could be higher than his current $4.5 million one.

Frankly speaking, unless Stephen Weiss vastly steps up his game if and when he returns this season and in the playoffs, he could face some questions and trade rumors this summer.

Weiss has a modified no-trade clause, but one has to think that he could be asked to waive it if the Red Wings are content with Legwand's play and are intent on re-signing him in the summer.

Obviously, it is unfair to compare these two players after Legwand's second game on the top line for Detroit. However, Legwand has gotten the job done thus far. 

If he continues to do so, it wouldn't be a stretch to see him instead of Weiss in Detroit next season as the No. 2 center.

 

All salary information via CapGeek.com.

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