When Florida Panthers forward Stephen Weiss went down with a season ending wrist injury in early March, many questions arose over whether or not he would re-sign with the Panthers. Well, the Panthers’ season came and went and as we approach the July 5th start of free agency, those questions regarding Stephen Weiss remain largely unanswered.
Stephen Weiss has been a Florida Panther his entire career. He made his debut during the 2001-02 season and he owns the franchise record for most games played with the team. He also holds the franchise assists record with 249 and is second in points with 394 trailing Olli Jokinen by only 18 points. He has endured with the Panthers through historical struggles and has only played in the playoffs once, in 2012, 637 regular season games into his career. Would the Panthers let Weiss walk? a player so entwined in their history?
Weiss is only 30 years old and despite injury troubles last season, he has been a relatively consistent player throughout his career. He has three 20 plus goal seasons under his belt as well as three 50 point seasons. It is highly unlikely that Florida would not even attempt to re-sign Weiss but will they be willing to go as high as Weiss may command on the open market?
Last season, Weiss made $4.1 million which concluded a six year deal worth $18.6 million. My guess is Weiss will get four or more years at around 4.5 million per year. I think the Panthers would be happy to get Weiss at that rate but there could be teams out there willing to pay a little extra for Weiss’ services. There has already been interest around the league from a number of teams. According to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs are the three teams confirmed to be interested in Weiss. If the Panthers feel like they will be unable to get a deal done, they could trade their rights to negotiate with Weiss before the start of free agency on July 5th. By doing this, Florida could at least get a draft pick of some sort as compensation for losing one of their star players.
How exactly the Stephen Weiss situation plays out remains to be seen, but I think that when it is all said and done, Stephen Weiss will not be putting on a Panther uniform on opening night. Weiss has been playing in the NHL since the 2001-02 season and during that time he has only played in one playoff series. With the Panthers looking a year or two, at least, away from contending Weiss would probably prefer to move to a team that can compete immediately. At 30 years of age, it doesn’t seem likely that Weiss would savor the opportunity to go through another rebuilding ordeal after spending his entire career playing for perpetually rebuilding Panther teams.
Also fromm the Panthers’ perspective, it might make sense to let Weiss walk. If Weiss is able to produce at his peak levels for the next couple of years, he would probably be worth the 4.5 or so million per year he will likely receive. He is however moving towards to wrong side of 30 and coming off an injury plagued season. A team like the Red Wings or the Maple Leafs can afford to take on the kind of risk that comes with signing Weiss. I am not entirely convinced the Panthers would or should risk re-signing Weiss to another long term contract.
We should hear more about Weiss in the coming days and I expect this situation will be resolved one way or another prior to the start of free-agency. How do you think the Weiss situation will play out? Do you think the Panthers re-sign him? Will they trade away his negotiating right? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and for more Panther news, be sure to follow us on twitter and Facebook.