Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is Stephen Weiss The Answer To Rangers Number One Center Problem?

The New York Rangers have been searching for a number one center for a number of years, and that search continues as they have yet to find one to pair with a struggling Marian Gaborik in hopes of getting the best from him.  In a league where a number one center is at a premium it is rare to see them hit the trade or free agent market, so teams are usually forced into hoping they can develop one they have drafted.  One potential number one center is considered to be in the attainable category before this month's trade deadline; Florida Panther Stephen Weiss.  Adding potential intrigue to this idea was the report per David Neal of the Miami Herald, the Rangers had scouts at Monday’s Florida/St. Louis game.   
Beyond just Weiss, this is a great game for the Rangers to scout because both teams are on the outside looking in, which might make both amenable to making trades.  Each team has some potential targets that might interest the Rangers, but let’s look at Stephen Weiss who is likely the most popular of those choices from perspective of New York fans clamoring for a deal to help Marian Gaborik at the center position. 
Weiss, 27, is an intriguing center to look at when it comes to the trade market.  He has played first line minutes and against top competition for a number of years in Florida, has back-to-back 60 point seasons and has a very reasonable cap hit of 3.1 million for the next two seasons.  Weiss has 15 goals, 22 assists and 37 points in 52 games for the Panthers this year.
On the ice Weiss is a tremendous skater, has good vision and passing ability while being able to chip in on the goal scoring front.  His ability to score goals is a little unsure because last season he put up a career high 28, but is only at 15 thus far this year.  It is tough to fully gauge whether that is a result of the lack of overall talent in Florida or speaks to where Weiss actually is. 
In addition to his regular offensive numbers, Weiss has the potential to help the Rangers in two areas that have plagued them this season; power play and faceoffs.  On the season he has one power play goal and 12 assists, which would make him number one on the Rangers in both power play assists and points.  He is also excellent on faceoffs, currently wining 54% of his draws (25th in the NHL), which would be a considerable upgrade for the Blueshirts.
The question is not whether Weiss would make the Rangers better than they currently are, but if the cost to bring him in would be worth it long term?  As always it depends on price, but the intrigue of adding a player in his prime years with a low, fixed salary to skate with Gaborik certainly has a lot of appeal.  The reasonable cap hit would also make it much easier to keep their own players this summer than signing a bigger name like Brad Richards.
There is also a huge caveat to the whole discussion; Stephen Weiss has a no-movement clause so he would have to approve any deal.  Maybe it is weird, but I love the fact that up until a reporter told him, Weiss had no idea he had the clause in his contract.
When talking about the possibility of leaving the Panthers, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel, reports Weiss had the following to say…
“There are points where it really wears on you,” Weiss told “But at the back of my mind, I just want to try to play hard and when it does finally work here, it’ll feel that much better because you stuck it out. That’s not to say there haven’t been tough times, but this is where I got drafted and this is where I want to be.
“When the calls stop coming in and nobody wants you, that’s when you’re in trouble,” he said. “If you’re playing the way you should be, the interest will be there.”
Have to love the attitude and the desire to want to see the work through, though it makes you wonder if he would even be willing to accept a trade out of Florida.  In the end, while I really like Stephen Weiss and believe there is an upgrade over what the Rangers have right now, I do not see him as a true number one center on a contending team.
What would you give up for Weiss?  Is Weiss really a number one center?  Is center the biggest need?  Would you rather wait until the summer and shoot for Brad Richards?  As you can see the Rangers have a lot of questions right now, but Weiss might be a potential answer.