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O Captain, Sly Captain…


1 year…$7.5 million….and RFA status.

This is what the Predators have to look forward to this season. They also get to look forward to signing Suter and Rinne (UFA’s) and Kostitsyn, Bergfors, O’Reilly, Lindback, etc. (RFA’s) before July 1st of 2012. I would not want to be in Poile’s shoes at this juncture of his career. These are pressing issues that have long term ramifications for the Nashville Predators and the viability of the team as not just a Cup contender but a playoff contender.
As a fan of the Predators and especially our Captain, Shea Weber, and also one who held to the belief of Poile being a mad genius, it puzzled me to no end why a deal wasn’t struck at the beginning of last season, or the mid-point of the season, or the end of the season, or just before free agency, or before the arbitration hearing.

All things said on both fronts are that Weber wanted to remain a Predator and that both sides were in the ballpark. It seems they were talking about ballparks being not the same stadium but the distance between Chavez Ravine and Fenway.

By all accounts, the sides have not been able to see eye to eye on term and structure. Shea apparently wanted a smaller deal to either: a) test the market in a couple years and cash in on a huge payday for one of the best (if not THE best) defenseman in the league or b) allow for Poile to build a team that would compete for the Cup rather than just to make the playoffs. Let’s break these down a little further:

“Shea wants a short term deal so he can make more money in 2 years either with the Predators or another team”

Weber is the man, no doubt about that and his numbers and leadership abilities show him as the best in the league at what he does. One would be hard press to find anybody who wouldn’t agree to that statement including David Poile, Weber’s agent, and the arbiter. Weber performs on the highest level night in and night out and as such, should be paid handsomely for his efforts and skill. $6.5-7.5M seems about right for an elite defender, but my question lately has been, does an elite defender win you games?

Does he prevent teams from scoring? Yes.

Does he put points on the board? Yes.

Does he come through with timely goals? Yes (Boston overtime win, and tying goal against Anaheim where the Predators won in OT).

But can he truly win games for the Predators like, for instance, a Steven Stamkos or Zack Parise can? No.

When you look at contracts given out to Parise (1yr-$6M) or Stamkos (5yr-$7.5M) you have to think that these offensive phenoms actually win games for their teams. Weber is an elite defender, but key in on DEFENDER. As great as Shea Weber is, he is still a blueliner. Is that skill worth the same as someone who can score goals at will for a goal starved team like the Nashville Predators?

“Shea wanted a short term deal to see if Poile is serious about building a Cup-contending team”

Like many fans of the Nashville Predators, it seems like Shea Weber may want GM David Poile to start putting together a squad to actually compete year in and year out for the Cup. The fans have been calling for a top 6 scorer to take Nashville to the next level and maybe ignite the PP troubles that Nashville has been mired in for years. The Predators haven’t had a decent scorer since Kariya, and later Radulov, left. To many observers and hockey pundits, this lack of a true scorer is what has hindered Nashville’s ability in the past to advance further than the first round.

The flip side to what Weber may want from his GM is exactly what has hindered Poile in reaching out to sign or trade for that elite scorer and that is the endless soap opera surrounding Weber’s contract and the arbitration hearing. Now with the arbiter judging to pay Weber $7.5M for the next year, this further handcuffs Poile’s ability to negotiate for an elite scorer. Poile even traded Franson and Lombardi to alleviate more cap space so as to sign Weber for $7M per for 5 years, and Shea’s side turned this down. Now, Poile has tons of money, no Franson, and a player that may not want to sign long term in Shea Weber.

Franson could have been used for excellent trade bait along with draft picks for an elite scorer like Semin or the like. Now, this maneuver cannot be done. No UFA’s are worth picking up, and almost every RFA going to arbitration has been signed by their teams. Guess what, with the extension of Patrick Sharp in Chicago, next year doesn’t look too promising on the UFA front either.

In essence, by delaying this process, Weber and his new agent have hamstrung Poile and his ability to do anything of measure to enhance our dismal scoring or pathetic PP. All the while, in being awarded a 1 yr arbitration deal, Weber got the short term deal he wanted. Call me crazy, but I haven’t seen a player take an organization hostage to improve itself since Wayne Gretzky gave L.A. an ultimatum to build a better team or trade him (h/t to HB message-boarder Predaceous for that tidbit).

Maybe Weber should just do what he does best by hammering offensive players into the boards and ripping slap shots past goaltenders and leave the GM of the Nashville Predators to do his job without causing havoc and uncertainty within the organization that you claim to “love to play for.” Weber is not Gretzky and to begrudgingly quote from the Kanye West song played during the Predators on-ice warm up before the game…

“No one man should have all that power”