Many fans were happy when the Montreal Canadiens made a four-player trade with the Philadelphia Flyers in February, sending them defenceman David Schlemko and Laval Rocket captain Byron Froese in return for Christian Folin and the familiar Dale Weise.
This was the second time the Canadiens had acquired the 6’2” veteran forward, the first time being after a trade with the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for defenceman Raphael Diaz. Weise would become a prominent player for the Canadiens during their 2014 playoff run, notably infuriating Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic as the Canadiens advanced beyond the the second round.
Weise spent the complete 2014-15 season in Montreal, but in the final year of his contact in 2015-16, he saw himself traded along with Tomas Fleischmann to the Chicago Blackhawks for Phillip Danault and a second-round pick.
In retrospect the trade looks brilliant on the part of Marc Bergevin, but Weise, who greatly enjoyed playing in Montreal, was despondent after the move. He faltered with the Blackhawks and hit the free-agent market at the end of the season. The thought of bringing him back to Montreal was thrown around, but when the fans saw the contract that the Flyers offered Weise — a four-year deal worth $2,350,000 per season — they were quite happy to let him walk. Weise may have been a fan favourite, but at that length of contract, it certainly seemed like it wasn’t worth the risk given his injury history and fourth-line role on the team.
It certainly played out that way. By the second year of his contract with the Flyers, Weise was already finding himself a healthy scratch. By the third year, he had cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
That’s where the Canadiens came in. They had a bad contract, Schlemko’s, sitting in Laval, and also a need to beef up their forward depth in their playoff push. Both players needed a fresh start, so the match made sense. The Canadiens were hoping that lightning would strike twice, and that Weise could recapture the form he had shown previously, overachieving and punching well above his weight class.
He was assigned to the Rocket before getting called up by the Canadiens, returning to the blue-blanc-rouge for the first time in three years, and was naturally very excited about it.
“It feels absolutely surreal,” Weise said in an interview with Sportsnet shortly after his first recall from Laval. “It’s just crazy. I don’t even know what to feel right now. The first time I got traded to Montreal it was a dream come true, and ever since I left I just haven’t felt like the same player. My emotion — it just hasn’t felt the same since I left. To come back now, it just feels so surreal. I’m so excited. This is where I’ve always wanted to be; the team, the fans, the ownership, the coaches, just everything. It’s everything I want to be a part of.”
When fans saw him in however, they weren’t witnessing the same Dale Weise they knew in 2014. This Weise had lost a step, slowed down by injuries and hard-pressed to keep up with the new speed of the game.
By the time the trade deadline went by, the Canadiens had beefed up their fourth line with the additions of Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal, and Weise quickly found himself on the outside looking in. He only played in nine games with the Canadiens once the season was all said and done.
Weise has one more year left on his contract, and it’s clear that with Thompson and Weal re-signed for next season, Weise won’t have a place on the Canadiens’ roster in 2019-20.
So now the question becomes what to do with him.
The following are the cap implications for various scenarios, in descending order. As you see, there is little variance between burying him in the AHL, trading him with maximum cap retention, and buying him out.
Although getting his contract off the books would be the ultimate goal, trading Weise may be difficult without taking a contract or equal weight in return given his known contribution limits at this point. With already 36 contracts signed for next season and a handful of restricted free agents to sort out, this might not be a bad route to take if the return is a player who can lend a hand in Laval with the very young Rocket team and has a cap hit that can be fully buried.
But what if that help in Laval would be Weise himself?
Bury his salary in the AHL
Weise certainly made an impact with the Rocket in his brief stint there, scoring two goals in three games while playing on the top line of an offensively starved team. If the Canadiens were willing to use one of their AHL veteran spots on him, would Weise consider an assignment in the AHL to mentor the young prospects coming up through the Canadiens’ system?
It certainly is not a bad idea. Weise had previously shown an understanding of what this role would entail. “I hope that I can be a good influence,” he said in an interview with RDS when he was initially assigned to Laval last season. “It’s a very young team. I want to be able to show them, not necessarily what it takes to make the NHL, but more the little things that help you have a better career, develop consistency, and have the right attitude.”
Faced with the end of his NHL time in Montreal, and with newborn twins at home, will Weise be willing to spend a season in the AHL? Financially it would be to his benefit, but if he’s willing to do that is another matter.
Well it certainly is an option, but I can’t see Weise choosing voluntary retirement when there is a significant amount of money in play. For completeness, if he were to retire, the entire cap hit would come off the books. But the likelihood of this happening is very low, so let’s assume it’s not an option.
Buy out the final year of his contract
Finally, there is the buyout option. Weise would collect two-thirds of the value of the contract over double the time remaining on the deal, and the Canadiens would eliminate his contract but incur a salary cap hit as a result. It’s nothing too drastic: $1.183 million in 2019-20 (a mere ~1.5% of the salary cap) and $583,000 in 2020-21.
I wouldn’t be overly surprised if this is the route the Canadiens and Weise take. He would be able to celebrate completing his career with the team that brought him the most success and personal joy. Unless he has organizational or coaching ambitions, a final season in the AHL might not be all that attractive to him.
As much as Dale Weise could be a valuable asset in Laval, it certainly doesn’t feel as though that’s the direction the team is going to take, so on June 15, when the buyout window opens, don’t be surprised if Weise is on that list.