Weight-lifting benefits Blues, Ducks
By Ray Slover - SportingNewsLINK
You won't hear me saying anything bad about Doug Weight. He's one of the nicest guys I've met in hockey. Not that nice guys are hard to find in a sport brimming with them.
But time has passed Weight by, and he no longer is a player who can be a first-line presence. He turns 37 in January. His terrible start to the season proved, at the very least, that he no longer had a place in the St. Louis Blues' future, and he probably didn't have a place in their present.
So here's wishing Weight good luck in his next venture, as a center for the Anaheim Ducks.
When push came to shove, Blues brass decided it was time to find a way to lose Weight. Their diet? Duck. And with the Ducks needing to shed a few million dollars, the time was right for a swap.
Andy McDonald arrives in St. Louis with numbers that pale in comparison to what he posted last season, when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. But his four goals and 12 assists in 33 games are similar to Weight's four goals and seven assists. By the way, Weight's four goals all came in the past week. And at eight years younger than Weight, McDonald should be around long after Weight has retired.
A bonus? McDonald was a linemate of Paul Kariya, the sniper the Blues added in the offseason. Finding a legitimate first-line center to play with Kariya and surprising sniper Brad Boyes should only make the Blues better. Their offense has been spotty, and they were shut out Thursday by the Florida Panthers and old nemesis Tomas Vokoun.
Both McDonald and Weight are skilled playmakers. Neither has great size -- both are 5-11.
The key for the Blues? McDonald must produce like he did last season, when he had Teemu Selanne on his line. He also had a career season in 2005-06, with 85 points. He'll hustle and bang, as well, and he gets to the front of the net. Having Kariya and Boyes on his flanks portends nothing but good.
Weight won't be expected to be the Ducks' first-line center. He probably will be the third-liner he was with the Carolina Hurricanes during their 2006 Stanley Cup run. And in an interview with Ducks media Friday, GM Brian Burke said Weight could be on a line with tough customer Todd Bertuzzi.
But the Ducks had to clear cap room for the return of Scott Niedermayer, and they had to think about next offseason, when right winger Corey Perry becomes a restricted free agent. The last thing GM Brian Burke wants is a repeat of last summer, when Perry linemate Dustin Penner got a bloated free-agent contract from the Edmonton Oilers.
Weight will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. His contract cash will be converted into bucks for Perry. A happy convergence, to say the least.
The Ducks also get another interesting young forward in Michal Birner, who was playing with the Blues' top affiliate, AHL Peoria. He's about a year away from cracking the NHL, although there's some thought he could be ready before the season ends. A seventh-round pick heading toward Anaheim is a throw-in.
A crying need for offense, especially for a first-line center to play with Kariya, makes this deal a winner for the Blues. McDonald will be a contributor both on a flimsy power play and at even strength.
As for Weight, a class act gets to spend some quality time in Anaheim. A California tan won't look bad on a Michigan lad.
Also in his interview with Ducks media, Burke said he remains quite pleased with his deep, talented defense. Niedermayer returns to make this group as strong an eight as any team can boast.
He also noted that he had several inquiries about Mathieu Schneider, who was signed as a free agent last summer oustensibly to replace Niedermayer. However, Burke said he found dealing McDonald a better fit for his team's needs. Burke said, correctly, his team's problem isn't on defense; it's in its forward corps.
Make not mistake: Niedermayer's return will boost the Ducks. But one must wonder just how much the forward corps misses Teemu Selanne, who also decided not to return to the team after its Stanley Cup triumph.
McDonald is a puck-lugger, while Weight prefers to dish and dash. Weight will work on the edges and left Bertuzzi do the mucking.Ray Slover is an associate editor for the Sporting News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.