Fear The Fin has been publishing an ongoing series about players that the Sharks may target at the trade deadline to solidify the team for a Stanley Cup run. It's such a good idea that I've decided to steal it. Of course, these moves aren't about solidifying the team, they are more about recovering from this spiral. Whether Steve Tambellini has the wherewithal to do this is another story that has already been written by just about everyone.
The Edmonton Oilers have lacked depth at the center position since the 2007-2008 season. For the first 2/3 of that season, Craig MacTavish was able to run Shawn Horcoff and Marty Reasoner at the tough minutes, Jarrett Stoll at the rest and shelter either Cogliano or Gagner, whichever was on the dot at the time. Since that season, while Horcoff has had the sisyphean task of playing all of the hard minutes himself, the Oilers have experimented with the following centers, in alphabetical order: Kyle Brodziak, Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Ryan O'Marra, Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Penner, Fernando Pisani, Ryan Potulny, Marc Pouliot, and Zack Stortini. Edmonton's Dr. Moreau-like experiment at center has been a miserable failure. Enter Randy Sexton.
Sexton is the General Manager of the Florida Panthers. Yesterday he announced that, for the right price, every player on the Florida roster was available. He began by trading Dominic Moore to the Canadiens and word is that he's not close to finished. Sexton's firesale is just what the Oilers need, considering Florida center Stephen Weiss fixes about one-third of the problems with the Edmonton roster.
In my story last April about "The Best", meaning the players that consistently play the tough minutes and outscore their opponents, Stephen Weiss shockingly appeared as the number four tough minutes outscorer behind only Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Evgeni Malkin. At that time, over a two year span, Weiss played all of Florida's tough minutes, with tough starting position and was +33, or +.26 per 15 minutes of even strength time. Weiss was known to me only as the "pick that never panned out" in Florida. A look at his stats shows a completely different story:
#9 / Center / Florida Panthers
Apr 03, 1983
|GP||G||A||P||EV +/-||QC Rk ||QT Rk ||Corsi RK ||ZS Rk ||FO%||SOG||PCT|
|2007 - Stephen Weiss||74||13||29||42||+13||4/10||1/10||3/10||6/10||51.2||132||9.8|
|2008 - Stephen Weiss||58||14||47||61
|2009 - Stephen Weiss||58||20||27||47||-4||3/11||1/11||3/11||2/11||52.3
Jonathan Willis has looked at the effects of playing in the Southeast, so there is the possibility that Weiss is racking up numbers against soft competition. In 2007-2008 at even strength, Weiss' most common opponents were Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Ilya Kovalchuk, Brad Richards, Eric Staal, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Ray Whitney, Viktor Kozlov, and Vyacheslav Kozlov. Weiss combined to outscore those ten opponents 21 GF - 18 GA at even strength. His most common opponents in 2008-2009 were Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Vinny Prospal, Eric Staal, Tuomo Ruutu, Joffrey Lupul, Ray Whitney, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Sergei Samsonov. Weiss combined to outscore these ten 12 GF 11 GA at even strength.
Over two years, Weiss outscored some of the best forwards in the league 33 GF - 29 GA
In Edmonton he wouldn't be asked to play the tough minutes as his primary role. At home, a line-matching coach would ask Horcoff to continue to match the tough minutes and on the road, the opposing coach will be forced to choose between matching Weiss or Sam Gagner. Weiss would end up playing something in the range of second tough minutes over the course of a season.
Aside from the even strength exploits, Weiss has been an effective second minutes power play center and has begun playing second minutes penalty kill for the Panthers and somewhat effectively. His faceoff numbers speak for themselves.
It gets even better. Weiss is signed to a beauty contract through 2012-2013. His cap hit and salary are an amazing $3,100,000 per year for the next three years. He's going to be 27 years old in April, still on the right side of 30 and presumably still growing as a player. This is a contract that is already being outplayed and should continue to do so for the duration of the deal.
So what is the downside of dealing for Weiss? I can't find one. There may be grumbling from the fanbase about Weiss because he's small and is not considered a superstar, but this is a guy that will fix a lot of what ills the Oilers. The hangup is that he has a no-trade clause, which means that the Rexall jet will have to make one trip to Miami filled the the merry band of beggars. Lowe and Katz might have to lay it on thick and show Weiss that they have some idea of what they're doing behind "We signed Nikolai Khabibulin!".
What would Florida want in return? It's difficult to say given that Sexton has thrown open the doors and the owners haven't given an indication as to what the new plan is. I've mentioned in previous conversations that I believe Denis Grebeshkov and Andrew Cogliano should be enough to get a deal like that done, but Steve Tambellini should be open to sending anything not named Sam Gagner, Tom Gilbert, Ales Hemsky, Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson, Dustin Penner or the next two first-round picks to the Panthers in exchange for Weiss. Given the nature of the contract, Tambellini shouldn't be afraid to overpay just a bit to bring Weiss into the fold. His cap number is perfect for a team jammed up against the cap but in need of an outscoring center, a tough-minutes center, a center that can win faceoffs and a center than can contribute to the penalty kill. Sending Horcoff, Weiss, Gagner and Pouliot out every night would finally fix the issue that's been plaguing the Oilers for two years.