The Shea Weber situation has been apparently been resolved in Nashville with him under contract for this upcoming season. Now they can look forward to the year ahead with optimism after last years playoff run, right? Don't believe it for a second, I will now explain why one of the leagues premier D-men is now available to the highest bidder.
The Weber arbitration hearing is over and he won being awarded $7.5M for a one year deal. The arbitrator decided on that number after hearing arguments justifying the Nashville low-ball offer of 4.75M and the Weber inflated counter-offer of 8.5M. That's a healthy $3M raise from last season for the First Team All-Star.
The Preds started this by tendering RFA Shea Weber a qualifying offer removing the possibility of an offer sheet from another club. This means an arbitration hearing is scheduled and the team has until then to work out a deal with the player. Most teams sign their RFA's prior to the hearing (22 of 24 this year) since the process tends to widen the rift between team and player which frequently leads to a trade of the player.
The Preds offer removed the possibility of a big payday in the form of an offer sheet with a long-term deal from potential suitors. His one year deal awarded by the arbitrator means he will be a RFA next July 1st without the possibility of arbitration. Teams can then submit an offer sheet for Weber that would compensate Nashville with four 1st round picks if he leaves. Signing a one-year deal before July 1st will allow Weber UFA status the following summer.
The arbitration process is harsh as teams rip players for their flaws to try to lower the dollar value of the to-be-awarded contract amount. The players agent praises the accomplishments of the player to get him the highest dollar value he can for his client. The player gets to sit there listening to what his team truly thinks of his past play and future potential as well as what another team out there might think of him. This conclusion to the lengthy and ultimately futile contract negotiations leads to the vast majority of players traded sometime the season following arbitration.
The conference call with Weber and Nashville President/G.M. David Poile was thick with sports cliches. They both must remember the scene from "Bull Durham" when Costners character coaches Robbins on what to say in an interview as they really put a positive spin on the ordeal. History shows that all this presentation that all is well on the home front is a farce. Teams traded 9 of the last 10 RFAs that went to an arbitration hearing that season and the other player went the following year.
The Preds can buck the trend but they would have to convince Weber they committed to winning and that means the contract extensions of teammates Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. Both of these players are UFAs so if they walk at seasons end there is no compensation for Nashville. The signing or trading of these two would have to occur prior to the trade deadline to alleviate that risk. Will they pay the 11, 12 or even 13M a season long-term to keep these two... and then sign Weber for 7.5+M for a long-term contract as well? Nothing in Nashvilles low-budget history would lead me to think they would spend almost a third of their cap space on three players.
Under these circumstances the team usually doesn't get full value in trade since other teams are well aware of the need for the player to be moved, but not this time. There are 29 other teams that would love to acquire this Norris trophy candidate D-man. That will be easier sooner than later as teams will be more willing to pull the trigger on a major deal that could shake-up their team prior to the season. Moving Weber before training camp will allow the team to move forward without the distraction of "when will he be traded?" discussions. Do the Preds even want him at training camp telling the twelve free-agent teammates about how he spent his summer vacation?
Trading for him would be contingent on his re-signing with the acquiring team. He wants to be the highest paid D-man in the league and he could be worth it. He may be the best defenseman in the NHL for the next decade. That means $7.5M+ and at least five years for the about to be 26 year-old is the contract the team acquiring him would need to prepared to pay. There are several teams that would do this in the blink of an eye, but do they have the right assets to to get him as well as keep him? Weber wants a championship so his believing in the organization and his teammates is crucial to his signing.
Now the chaos begins as teams across the league are dialing Nashville saying "can we talk?". David Poile will sift through the offers looking for high value and low costs. High dollars with a long term aren't likely to go over well given the frugal approach shown throughout team history right up to this summer. Only time will tell which NHL G.M. will put together the right offer and he will likely have to win a bidding war to do so. Shea Weber will be moved, it's just a matter of when.