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What Weber’s arbitration decision means

A year after the Predators filed for arbitration with Shea Weber, the restricted free agent today declined to exercise his right to file for arbitration, according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.

This can be viewed two different ways:

– If Weber had filed, it would have kept other teams from potentially signing him to an offer sheet. Now, an offer sheet is possible.

– On the flip side, the Predators’ captain was not thrilled by last summer’s process that ended with him being rewarded a $7.5 million contract for the 2011-12 season and didn’t want to mess with arbitration for the rest of this summer.

An offer sheet is risky business that many general managers aren’t fond of – no matter what side they are on. A rival GM, at any moment, could potentially sign Weber to a one-year contract worth $13-14 million contract and put David Poile under immense pressure. Would Poile match that offer and risk losing Weber as an unrestricted free agent, or let Weber go and acquire the four first-round picks he would receive as compensation?

Further, a team could sign Weber to a monster, decade-long contract worth over $10 million a year (which could result in the Predators’ negotiations with Weber being done for them).

If the Predators were prepared to give Ryan Suter $90 million over 13 years, you would assume they’d pony up the same money for Weber (sans offer sheet). Also, the team has said that they would match any offer sheet for Weber, which could steer away GMs from even bothering with the process.

Despite that, Poile needs to come to a resolution with Weber as soon as possible so an offer sheet doesn’t happen. Poile even said Wednesday that his main focus has turned to Weber.

If nobody signs Weber to an offer sheet, then this could be good news for the Predators.

As mentioned above, Weber was displeased with the arbitration process last summer, so this news shouldn’t come as a surprise. This could also suggest that Weber wants to sign a long-term contract. After last summer, he may not care about striking big in unrestricted free agency – he may just want to be done with the entire contract process and move on.

“Hopefully this can lead to further negotiations between my agents and the Predators … Hopefully we can get something done long-term,” Weber said last August. “This is a temporary solution. I love it in Nashville.”

Assuming Weber wants to go into the 2012-13 season with a long-term contract in his back pocket, this is where the collective bargaining agreement can help the Predators.

As the Examiner’s Jim Diamond pointed out today, Weber would likely seek a contract that could make him the NHL’s highest-paid defenseman. With the CBA expiring Sept. 15, Weber may only get that chance within the next two months.

In a new CBA, GMs and owners would like to eliminate the types of long-term contracts that we’ve seen plenty of this summer:

  • Zach Parise and Ryan Suter – 13 years, $98 million with the Wild
  • Sidney Crosby – 12 years, $104.4 million with the Penguins
  • Jordan Staal – 10 years, $60 million with the Hurricanes
  • Jonathan Quick – 10 years, $58 million with the Kings

These contracts, which lower cap hits to circumvent the salary cap, have become all too common in recent years and give the big spenders an advantage when said contracts are front-loaded. In an ideal world for the GMs and owners, these contracts will become a thing of the past and a six- or seven-year limit will be enforced in the new CBA. The players will obviously object this proposal from the other side of the negotiating table.

With two months remaining in the current CBA, the Predators very well may have leverage in a long-term contract negotiation with Weber. A 13- or 14-year deal worth upwards of $100 million wouldn’t be out of the question for the captain, who is considered by many as the best defenseman in the NHL.

But that’s assuming Weber wants to stay in Nashville for the long haul.

Though Weber said last August, “I just don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t want to be here,” his thought process may have changed the moment Suter signed with Minnesota. According to ESPN, one of Weber’s representatives said today that Weber is in “disbelief” following yesterday’s happenings.

The coming days, weeks, months will be pivotal in determining not only the future of Weber, but also the future outlook of the Predators’ on-ice product. The fact that Weber did not file for arbitration may expedite that process, which could be a good thing in the Predators’ attempt to retain its biggest star.

Update: Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn was one of 16 players to file for salary arbitration. In May, Kostitsyn expressed a desire to be signed to a multi-year deal. His first two contracts with the Predators were each just for one year.

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2 Responses

  1. [...] days later: Predators’ Poile still upset with Suter decision (Josh Cooper, The Tennessean)What Weber’s arbitration decision means (Ryan Porth, Smashville 24/7)If Ryan Suter laves, will Shea Weber push for a trade? (David Staples, [...]

  2. [...] (Remember: the new CBA may not allow these decade-long contracts, which means Weber’s opportunity to be the highest-paid defenseman is now.) [...]