DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings may have not gotten what they wanted through three days of NHL free agency, but there’s one signee from a year ago they’re still counting on … Stephen Weiss.
Weiss appears heading in the right direction in recovery from a second procedure on April 21 to repair an issue with scar tissue from sports hernia surgery he had on Dec. 23.
“He says he feels great,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Thursday. “He went on the ice Monday. (Trainer) Piet Van Zant went up to watch him skate and he thought he looked good.”
The Wings targeted Weiss on the first day of free agency last season and landed the center for a hefty five-year deal worth $24.5 million.
Weiss, 31, managed to play just 26 games this season totaling two goals, two assists and a minus-4.
“I told him I only want to hear if there’s a setback,” Holland said. “If I don’t hear from him I’ll assume he’s getting better and better and better. So no news is good news.”
Weiss was the second line center Detroit decided to go after to replace Valtteri Filppula, who had a career-high 25 goals in his first season in Tampa Bay with 33 assists in 75 games.
But Weiss began the season with a hernia and tried to play through it.
“Coming down for the first game of the year and thinking ‘How are you going to get through the game?’ is probably not the right way to start,” Weiss said at the end of last season. “I have to be smarter. It’s not my first year, I’ve been around a bit and should be a little bit smarter and should have spoken up earlier and maybe some of this could have been avoided. But sometimes that’s not my style. I tend to do that and it got me in some trouble. (Last season was) a huge disappointment, but in saying that it kind of fuels the fire for this summer and next year.”
Weiss was cleared in early June to begin working out and will be able to ramp things up over the summer.
“He was going to do a week of skating and then take a week or two off and get back to his routine in late July or early August,” Holland said. “This was sort of a test run.
“Certainly Stephen Weiss was signed to be an important part of our team,” Holland added. “We were looking on him to provide secondary scoring.”
When training camp began, Weiss was slated to center another newcomer, Daniel Alfredsson, and Johan Franzen.
“We were hoping that line would provide us the secondary scoring we needed because this league is hard to score in,” Holland said. “The last two years we haven’t been able to score at the level we feel we have to be to compete at the top of the conference.”
Injuries have been a common occurrence for Weiss, who had scored 20 or more goals four times in his last seven seasons in Florida, missing the final 26 games of the 2012-13 season with a wrist injury.
“He’s had a tough couple of years,” Holland said. “Mike Babcock and I had a great conversation with many of our players about the importance of having a great offseason and coming to camp understanding there’s a competition for ice time and a competition for jobs.
“We think there’s going to be a real competition to be in the lineup every night,” Holland continued. “We just need to stay healthy.”
Weiss was expected to return from the sports hernia surgery right after the Olympic break.
“It’s been a big disappointment, but I don’t know how much I’d change other than being a little smarter in the summer and maybe a little smarter at the start of the season, not trying to play through these types of things as much as I did,” Weiss said. “Even though it was my first year and I wanted to do things the right way, maybe taking a little time off at the start of the season would have done me better than pushing through and trying to be a little bit of a hero that way. So I got myself into some trouble that could have been avoided by being a little bit smarter.”