Could Weiss be leaving Florida?
What do Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Mikko Koivu, Pascal Leclaire and Ales Hemsky have in common with Stephen Weiss?
If you guessed that they were all first round draft choices in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, you are correct.
Weiss was selected 4th overall by the Florida Panthers.
Kovalchuk was selected first overall by Atlanta, Spezza second by the Ottawa Senators, Koivu sixth by the Minnesota Wild, Leclaire eighth by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Hemsky thirteenth by the Edmonton Oilers.
What is even more interesting is that, with the exception of Kovalchuk and Koivu, it is quite possible that all of these players could be traded this season by this seasons NHL trade deadline.
To focus on Weiss, he has appeared in over 500 games as a Panther. He has a unique quality of being a dependable two-way center while contributing offensively. He has from time to time not played up to his potential and at other times has had to carry the offensive load for the Panthers.
Leading the Panthers with 33 points in 48 games entering the All-Star break, Weiss has lead the Panthers in scoring the last two seasons picking up the slack left behind by the departure of longtime Panther Olli Jokinen.
Unfortunately, Weiss has never played in the Stanley Cup play-offs.
Not overly physical, Weiss relies on his quick acceleration and hockey smarts. Weiss is four years into a six-year, $18.6M contract he signed in 2008. He also has a no movement clause, basically being able to accept or veto any move presented to him.
With Panthers currently sitting on the outside of the Eastern Conference play-off picture, seven points behind division rival Atlanta for the eight and final play-off spot, Weiss is looking more and more like he will continue his streak of post seasons missed.
Should he miss again this season it will be six seasons and counting for Weiss.
With Panthers general manager Dale Tallon ushering in a re-building mentality, it appears that Tallon is looking to make big roster changes.
Tallon was seen recently with Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier prior to last nights game in Montreal. Could there be a trade involving Weiss?
While arguments could be made for a re-building team to keep your first line center and leading scorer, the Panthers seemed willing to look at all options to improve, including moving players out between now and the NHL trade deadline on February 28th for a fresh approach.
No doubt that Tallon was brought in to make changes, so the likelihood of the changes occurring could happen over the next 24 days— between now and the trade deadline.
Here are 10 potential new homes for Stephen Weiss.
The Islanders are a young team with some good talent, but they are also a team that needs help.
That being said, Islanders general manager Garth Snow has said that he is looking to improve his hockey club through trades.
The Islanders could be involved during the trade deadline by acquiring players with mid range contracts that are proven NHL caliber players. Their young core of players desperately need the support.
Enter Stephen Weiss.
While he has a no movement clause in his currently contract, Weiss may or may not want to be traded to the New York Islanders, but maybe he should consider it.
During Weiss' time with the Panthers, the expectation was that he would blossom into a first line center able to proved great two-way play.
The reality is that Weiss is capable of playing big minutes, but thrives more in a secondary role and playing on Long Island would allow a great fit for not only Weiss, but he Isles as well.
With John Tavares anchoring the first line center position, the Isles— with the addition of Weiss, would have good centers to build around.
Weiss' ability to play both ends of the rinks is badly needed on Long Island and he would be in a mentor position to help a young player like Tavares.
Obviously there will need to more additions need with in the Isles top six forwards, but adding Weiss would be a nice path forward.
With another two-years remaining on his contract, it could very well be a good fit for both the Isles and Weiss who will be an UFA after the 2012-13 season. If things didn't work out, Weiss could still be valuable enough to move again within a years time.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon wants to re-vamp his squad, and while the Isles have some good young prospects the chances of the Islanders parting with them might allow this deal to happen.
The Panthers need to add depth and add NHL caliber players at the same time and trading away your top line center should command a good return.
Stephen Weiss C to NY Islanders for C/LW Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau LW
It will be up to Weiss to waive his no movement clause and accept difficult times ahead on Long Island.
However, with Tavares and Weiss as a one-two center combo, the Islanders will have the ability to begin moving forward on their re-building efforts.
The loss of Bailey and Comeau will no doubt be felt, but with Bailey currently playing wing, there seems to be a feeling he wasn't pegged as that #2 center they are in need of. Moving on could proved beneficial for Bailey who is clearly struggling in an Isles jersey.
Currently sitting in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference standings, the Montreal Canadiens seem to be a club that is playing inspired hockey while dealing with key injuries to Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov— both lost for the season.
Habs general manager Pierre Gauthier has been relatively active by acquiring defenseman James Wisniewski from the New York Islanders and dealing away forward Maxim Lapierre.
Veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik and Jaro Spacek have been handling the pressures that are associated with too much playing time.
The fact that these crafty vets could be wore down come April had to be the concern as Gauthier pulled the trigger in getting Wisniewski, a puck-moving skilled defenseman to help offset lose of Markov.
Now with injuries to Michael Cammarelli and the annual inconsistency of Andrei Kostitsyn, players like Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta have emerged lately to give the Habs a boost.
The Habs have quietly been one of the hotter teams in the NHL going 9-3-2 in their last 14 games. Montreal will need to continue that success and getting important points the club needs to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference standings.
Overall, the Habs could be looking to add a forward and a defenseman.
One of the better talent developers in the NHL. The Habs have been testing their depth this season with numerous call-ups from Hamilton (AHL).
So for that has worked out for the Habs and it has also shown scouts from other teams the potential NHL-type talent the Habs have in their system.
Current Habs defenseman Yannick Weber and under achieving forward Andrei Kostitsyn might be considered available come February 28th.
The trials and tribulations of Andrei are almost becoming legendary in Montreal. Kostitsyn has all the talent in the world, but has consistency issues as well as he often lacks drive and determination at key points of games.
How long will the Habs continue to put-up with Kostitsyn?
While Florida general manager Dale Tallon was recently seen having a long discussion with Montreal GM Gauthier, just prior to their two meeting in Montreal this week, speculation suggests that they might be talking.
Weiss would give the Habs another center, but a type of center that should fit well into Habs head coach Jacques Martin's system. Martin, the former Panthers GM, could very well be asking his GM to inquire about Weiss.
Stephen Weiss C and Bryan McCabe D to Montreal for Andrei Kostitsyn LW, Jaro Spacek D and Yannick Weber D and draft choice.
A deal such as this would need both Weiss and McCabe willing to waive their no movement clauses, as would Spacek. Florida would welcome former draft choice Spacek ( 5th round 1988) with another year on his guaranteed contract as Spacek is over 35 yrs old.
McCabe becomes a rental for the Habs, while Weiss adds another forward dimension.
Kostitsyn is an RFA at seasons end and Weber would be coming off an entry level deal.
Overall the Panthers add a potential 40 goal scorer and another puck moving defenseman that could be paired with Dmitry Kulikov to man the future Panthers power play.
The Edmonton Oilers are last in the Western Conference standings. So I guess you could say that it's apparent that they will not see the post season this year.
Having said that, the Oilers are a team needing to upgrade some areas on their roster in order to successfully help their prospects advance toward every day caliber NHL players.
They have a great core of young players full of potential in Taylor Hall, Marcus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark.
While Veteran Oiler Shawn Horcoff, LW Dustin Penner and RW Alex Hemsky are those players providing the mentoring ways for this young team, there might be other players available that might help lead the continual change in Edmonton.
Horcoff was named the team's 13th Captain in team history this past October.
This is not to suggest that these players can't help the Oilers reach the promised land, but rather that it might be time to make them available to other teams and bring in a fresh direction.
The trade deadline is an opportunity for the Oilers to look at their roster and see if they can make any necessary additions that will help advance this hockey up the Western Conference standings in the nearer future.
The recent waiving of Zach Stortini might provide a clue. The Oliers have a lot of forwards right now and they're only so many spots.
It's easy to assume that Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi are safe this trade deadline, but the same can't be said for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky or Tom Gilbert.
This club only has two players (Horcoff and Ryan Whitney) that have no movement/no trade clauses. With that, the Oilers are able to explore all options as well as any offers that are made between now and the trade deadline.
Stephen Weiss C and Michael Frolik RW to Edmonton Oilers for Andrew Cogliano C, Tom Gilbert D and Dustin Penner.
While many believe that Ales Hemsky may finally be dealt at the deadline, many feel that moving Penner makes more sense, at least right now.
Penner's absence allows Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi a chance to move up the depth chart. It also allows the Oilers to have three centers (Horcoff, Gagner and now Weiss) to compliment their right wingers of Hemsky, Eberle, Brule and now Frolik).
This might open up another deal where Hemsky is now moved for help on defense, especially in light of Tom Gilbert being dealt.
Overall, the young Oilers are now poised to potentially have two or possibly more scoring lines or combinations.
Should Panthers GM Dale Tallon be successful in unloading potential UFA Bryan McCabe and his $5M/season salary, Gilbert provides value and term. Gilbert has four more seasons at $4M/season.
Cogliano, like Frolik is scheduled for RFA status after this season. A change of scenery might be exactly what the speedy winger needs. As for Frolik, he has been struggling at time this season as well, Frolik's style of play would be welcomed by the Oilers fans.
Currently sitting in 12th spot in the Eastern Conference standings, the Leafs are in tough to make it to the post-season this year. They are 10 points behind eight place Atlanta, but have three games in hand.
The Leafs would need to leap-frog Florida, Buffalo and Carolina to be considered close to catching the Thrashers.
An up hill battle?
For a team that was occupying the NHL's basement earlier in the year, the Leafs have had stretches of playing good hockey, unfortunately it was also followed by some bad stretches as well.
With a small amount of cap space available and some noted UFA's such as Tomas Kaberle and JS Giguere, the Leafs could be in a nice cap position come July 1st when NHL free agency begins.
The question now seems to be will Toronto general manager Brian Burke wait til then to add players, or ship some out now at the deadline and free up even more cap space.
GM Burke would like to add more players if he could as well.
While the Leafs "wish list" seems to be a rather long one, the club does have some good young players who are finding their way. They will, like all young players, need to gain experience and also have an environment that will help them develop without feeling that they need to produce night in and night out.
Most NHL clubs are looking to possibly add another center to their roster, while the Leafs need a top number one center.
Mikhail Grabbovski, Tyler Bozek and Tim Brent have done the best that they can and have should— at times, that they can play down the middle. The fact of the matter is consistency. Lately it seems Grabovski has been more consistent, but the pressure remains.
The addition of a center like Steve Weiss would allow the Leafs the chance to allow Grabovski and Bozek to continue their development while contributing when they can.
The Leafs need to deal their UFA's or they will not get anything in return. The situation with Kaberle, who is rumored to be one player GM Burke would like to move, might depend on Kaberle himself. Not an ideal situation for the Leafs.
Their could be a market for veteran goalie JS Giguere. He would have to waive his no trade clause and there is a belief he would do so for Burke. That would provide Giguere a chance to earn another contract somewhere else.
Along with Giguere and Kaberle, Fredrik Sjostrom, Tim Brent, Joey Crabb and Darryl Boyce are all UFA at seasons end.
Tyler Bozek, Clarke MacArthur, John Mitchell, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson, Jay Rosehill and James Reimer are all RFA's.
Other established players like Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek and Kris Versteeg are also rumored to be available.
Really, no one is safe if the right deal comes along.
Stephen Wiess C, Bryan Allen D and Rostislav Olesz RW/LW to Toronto Maple Leafs for Kris Versteeg LW, Christian Hanson C/LW and Francois Beauchmin D.
The Leafs will acquire a veteran of over 500 NHL games in Weiss while getting the pivot they need at center. They will also still have Grabovski and Bozek, so immediately the center position is stronger and might be able to generate more offensive because of it.
Olesz would be more of an asset to the Leafs than the Panthers simply due to the differences in coaching styles. An under rated player, Olesz has battle nagging injuries and inconsistent play over his career.
Allen provides the edge the Leafs need to go along with Schenn, Komisarek and Phaneuf, while being able to play in almost all situations.
The Panthers get a scoring winger in Versteeg and some defensive help at both ends of the ice in Beauchmin. Hanson could also gain from being in a different coaching system and has a lot of promise.
Concussion problems plague centers return
A team that many wrote off at the beginning of the season, the Nashville Predators have combined their depth, leadership and great coaching to weather a constant storm of injuries.
One of the top teams in the league with man games lost, the Predators have been a streaky club this season with two major losing streaks wrapped around three major winning streaks.
The Predators were basically unbeatable throughout the month of January, which saw them on two major western road trips. The result, a 10 game unbeaten streak and a run up the Western Conference standings.
The ability to beat teams ahead of them resulted in the Preds moving 10 places in the conference.
They started the season with the promise of free-agent center Matthew Lombardi providing the first line centers responsibilities, only to lose the speedy center mid way through his second game as a Predator. A concussion, one of many Lombardi has experienced had sidelined him again. He has not played since.
The emergence of Cal O'Reilly seem to ease that burden for the Predators. Once teamed up with Patric Horqvist and Steve Sullivan, the top line took off and O'Reilly found himself the team's leading scorer.
However, a broken ankle has his season come to an end. With O'Reilly's injury the line-up was shaken again to find that two-way center Marcel Goc became a fixture on the Preds top line with Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat.
While the club continues to succeed, the question remains about the depth the Preds have at center as well as other positions.
Their goaltending has been fantastic this season with the rise of Andres Lindback backing-up starter Pekka Rinne, who lost time as well with injuries.
Overall the Predators are a banged up club that continues to get quality minutes from their role and younger players.
Currently the Predators have Steve Sullivan, Marek Svatos, Cal O'Reilly, Matthew Lombardi and Francis Bouillon all on Injured Reserve, Jordin Tootoo has volunteered for the NHL substance abuse program and is not available either.
The load is shoulder by the Captain, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter on defense while Erat, Goc, Kostitsyn, Colin Wilson, Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson have played very well with the increase in icetime.
Adding another center could provide two scoring lines as Svatos and possibly Steve Sullivan could return from IR.
While tapping into their depth, the Predators might be willing to offer draft selection in any deal to acquire immediate help.
Predators GM David Poile is not a gambling type of general manager, so if a deal is done it will be done with long-term focus. While free-agent Matthew Lombardi has to deal with the symptoms of his latest concussion and Cal O'Reilly is lost until at least the beginning of next season, Polie might make a move to bring in another center that is a two-way player and not overly expensive in terms of salary.
Polie would also like that player to have some term left on their current deal.
Potential deal: Florida deals Stephen Weiss C to Nashville for Nick Spaling C/RW and Nashville's 2nd round selection and 4th round selection in 2011
The Panthers will save money off the cap and get a player in Spaling back who has developed very well this season playing for the Predators.
Although he is not a first line center, the option to sign a free agent is now there for the Panthers and it will allow them to play more of their prospects now for proper evaluation.
The Predators get a solid two-way center with great speed and should fit into the Preds mold like a glove. With the future of Matthew Lombardi up in the air, Polie just might have to sign another free agent in the off season anyway.
Now the club has another component as players become healthy and a strong push for the play-offs.
Mike MacDonald is a Feature Columnist covering the Nashville Predators and the NHL