By Allan Muir
Dale Tallon may find a way to reshape his team ahead of the NHL's trade deadline. But if Florida's GM is hoping to make a significant long-term upgrade, he'll have to do it without his most marketable asset.
The Panthers announced this morning that Stephen Weiss, the team's No.1 center and one of the most highly coveted players thought to be on the market, is scheduled for wrist surgery and will be lost for the season.
The news comes a day after the Panthers learned starting goalie Jose Theodore is likely out for the rest of the regular schedule. Like Weiss, Theodore is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and was expected to be shopped ahead of the deadline.
If Weiss pulled the plug on the season now, as is being speculated, then it's a pretty savvy move on his part. He was having a lousy year by any standard -- just one goal, four points and a minus-13 rating through 17 games, hardly the kind of numbers that would inspire a significant UFA offer. But now that he can point to the wrist injury as a reason for his slump, he'll be judged more heavily on past performance. That steady if unspectacular record should keep his name on top of the list for any team looking for a skilled, second-line center.
Good for him. For the Panthers, not so much.
Not that the East's worst team had any real aspirations of making a playoff push at this point, but removing Weiss from the equation suggests the next meaningful date on their calendar is the draft lottery on Apr. 29.
Any momentum gained from last season's surprising postseason appearance? Gone.
And whatever bounty Tallon hoped to reap from dealing Weiss -- assuming he could be convinced to waive his no-movement clause -- is gone, too. He'll leave in free agency this summer and Tallon will be left with nothing to show for it. For a team firmly committed to rebuilding with young talent and hoping to add at least one significant piece in exchange for Weiss, that's a crusher. Weiss will be remembered in Florida as a good soldier who never quite delivered on his huge promise. Makes this ending seem appropriate, doesn't it?