After Surgery, Weiss, Panthers Have Big Decision
|Forward Stephen Weiss walks out to a game at the BB&T Center this season (Getty Images)
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Stephen Weiss admits the thought has crossed his mind.
Weiss has been a cornerstone for the Florida Panthers for a decade, but there's a possibility he has played his last game with the organization.
Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Weiss will undergo season-ending surgery on his right wrist in Cleveland on Tuesday.
"Yes, it has [crossed my mind]," Weiss told reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning. "It's definitely not the way I would have written it if that is the case. It kind of burns at me that this is the way it could be going out, but you know what, that's life sometimes. You've got to deal with the cards you're dealt.
"If it is the last game, it's the last game, and I hope that everyone understands why I made this decision. It's been a good ride."
Weiss made the decision to have surgery instead of continuing to try to play with a wrist injury that's been bothering him since last season.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon announced the news Tuesday, and Weiss confirmed that it would be 12 weeks before he can start shooting pucks again.
Tallon said he wanted to wait until Weiss got healthy before discussing the possibility of a new contract, and Weiss echoed those sentiments.
"You know what? It would be awesome to finish my career here," said Weiss, whose six-year, $18.6 million contract expires July 1. "I've been here for a long time. You don't see that too often nowadays, guys staying with one team for a long time. So that would be great. But saying that, first of all, are they going to want me back? And if they do, those will be decisions that I'm going to make here at some point. I'm going to look at all the options and decide what I feel is best for me moving forward. That's about it."
Weiss said the decision to have the surgery was made as much thinking about the team as it was about his career.
A four-time 20-goal scorer, Weiss led the team in scoring three consecutive seasons before finishing second to Tomas Fleischmann in 2011-12, when the Panthers captured the Southeast Division and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in his career.
But Weiss struggled from the start of this season. He had one goal and three assists in 17 games and had a team-worst minus-13 rating.
"My decision to keep playing was 100-percent based on the team," Weiss said. "Last year we were in a great spot and I obviously wanted to keep playing and help the team end up doing what we did. Even this summer, I didn't want to go ahead and do anything if I didn't feel I absolutely needed to.
"And for myself, this being a big year, even though I was bothered pretty bad by it, I still wanted to keep playing and dig myself out of it. But there's only so much you can do. I've learned now if you're not able to shoot the puck and have the type of stick speed and strength that you want, you can't fake your way into this League. It's just too good. So I decided to do the surgery. I've always wanted to put the team first, but in this case I'm not helping them first of all, or myself. That's why I decided to do it."
Weiss had surgery on the same wrist following the 2008-09 season, and had surgery on his left wrist in 2006. He said the decision to have surgery now came after meeting with a doctor Monday and having an MRI and X-rays taken.
The night before, in what may have been his last game in a Panthers uniform, Weiss got 16:37 of ice time and was kept off the score sheet in a 3-2 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Weiss, the fourth pick of the 2001 NHL Draft, is hoping this latest surgery can put his wrist problems behind once and for all.
"That's why I waited this long," Weiss said. "I didn't want to have a second surgery. This is my last resort. I would have played the rest of my career with some wrist soreness or whatever as long as I felt I could compete and do the things I wanted to do. But unfortunately that's just not the case right now. What the doctors say is that if you get this done, it's going to do nothing but bring it back to 100 percent. There's something wrong that's causing this issue and there's a procedure that'll be done that'll fix it and take the stress away from what's bothering you.
"So I'm confident this is going to do nothing but help me become 100 percent and be even better moving forward."
Now, the question is whether Weiss will be moving forward with the Panthers.
Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent