Shea Weber is the most expensive defenseman in the NHL, at least in terms of yearly hit against the salary cap. An independent arbitrator awarded the Nashville Predators captain a one-year, $7.5 million contract on Wednesday afternoon, a little over 24 hours after the two parties met for an arbitration hearing on Tuesday morning. CBC Sports broke the news.
It was reported by CBC on Tuesday that Weber's camp suggested a high offer of $8.5 million, while David Poile and the Predators entered the meeting with a low offer of $4.75 million. Obviously, both numbers are to the extreme end of the spectrum, but unlike in other sports, the arbitrator doesn't have to accept one of the two proposals. They're simply suggestions on which he or she can base the final decision.
Now, the next step for Poile and the Predators is to lock up Weber to a long-term deal. Who knows how much damage was done to the relationship between the club and the player during the often-nasty arbitration process on Tuesday, but that could certainly factor into things going forward. If they were to agree on a contract, they can't announce it until January 1, 2012 at the latest according to CBA rules.
Over at our Predators blog, On the Forecheck, editor Dirk Hoag doesn't know if Weber's long-term future involves Nashville. This whole process has raised a lot of doubt there.
If they haven't already, I'd suggest that a frank discussion takes place as soon as possible, to determine whether Weber really wants to stay in Nashville. If not, Poile should place word around the league that he's available.
Send those GM's off on their August vacations to muse over the possibility of adding one of the league's top defensemen to their lineup, and spend September angling for the best deal before training camps open.
Nashville is a team that's always been careful with money. They don't spend anywhere close to the cap and have always found themselves closer to the lower limit than the upper limit.
In fact, even with Weber on the books as the most expensive defenseman in the NHL, On the Forecheck says the team payroll currently sits at $49.9 million. The salary floor this season is just $48.3 million, so it's tough to say that this contract really hurts the Predators all that much financially.
Poile still has some room, even under the strict budget that has always tied his hands, to ice a team next year -- a team that includes Shea Weber.