The Nashville Predators were looking at life without their top defensive pairing, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, heading into the 2012 NHL season. Suter, an unrestricted free-agent entering this off-season signed with the Minnesota Wild, and Weber, a restricted free agent signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. If the Nashville Predators knew they wanted to be a relevant franchise in the future management would have to match the offer sheet Weber received from the Flyers.
Last Tuesday, the Predators announced they had matched the offer sheet of 14-years and $110 million on She Weber. Weber hoped during the week the Predators would match the offer sheet or he would land in Philadelphia. But, now he will be a Predator for life, and he is ready for the organization to move forward in the right direction.
“It is a very exciting time for the Predators organization and myself,” Weber said. “It is a big step in the right direction. The ownership showed a commitment here obviously in the last week. Going forward, now I can focus on the important stuff: getting ready for the season and getting ready to go this year.”
Weber, 26, is the Predators captain and a two-two Norris Trophy nominated defenseman who played on $7.5 million arbitrator’s award last season tallying 19 goals and 49 points. Weber is owed $27 million over the next year and $68 million in bonus money over the first six years of the deal under the current CBA.
The big question for Nashville during this process was could they afford this kind of money being a small market team? The answer for the Predators was based on the long term and not the short term. The organization realized to be a successful franchise in the National Hockey League they need a name that will attract fans to the arena. The Predators have caught the eye of the league over the past two seasons with their deep runs into the playoffs.
A couple of other factors went into the decision to match the offer to Weber. First, Nashville wanted Weber to be the individual to lead a team that could compete over the next 14 years for a Stanley Cup. Also, they did not want to send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations that the organization would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with deeper pockets.
Nashville Predators Team Chairman Tom Cigarran expressed his feelings in a press conference at Bridgestone Arena. “Shea is our leader and we did what it took to keep him a Predator,” Cigarran said. “The Predators are not here just to survive, but to be an elite franchise that competes for the Cup every year. Our players, players with other organizations around the league and those organizations can now see that the Nashville Predators will not be pushed around by teams from bigger markets.”
Weber is a three-time All Star who helped Canada win gold in the 2010 Olympics, and he is the backbone of the Predators defense first mentality under head coach Barry Trotz. He is coming off a season in which he had a career-best plus- 21 rating. He was sixth among NHL defensemen in scoring over the last two seasons. He is an essential part to the team’s power-play registering a career high 22 points and league leading 10 goals on the power-play.
The Flyers were in a need of a defenseman like Shea Weber as they were eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs the last two seasons after making a run to the finals in 2010. They were also looking to fill a void by defenseman Chris Pronger, who has been sidelined with a concussion and an eye injury. However, they are now left scrambling looking for other options.
With the signing of Weber by the Predators, his contract will be the last of its kind under the current CBA. The owners are looking to limit contracts to five years in the current round of talks between the owners and players. Nashville took advantage of a system that was in place because like most teams do not know the economic landscape of the future.