In short- it’s a message to David Poile, Tom Cigarran, Jeff Cogen, and the brass at 501 Broadway that it’s time to build a team to win.
In a more in-depth look, it’s a shot across the bow against the model of spending to the midpoint of the salary cap and being in position to contend. Shea Weber isn’t content with that anymore. And frankly, neither should the fans be content with it either given the amount of talent and cap space the Predators now have.
By signing a one-year deal out of arbitration, Weber and his maligned agent have set his contract in line with the expiration of fellow cornerstones Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter. Also expiring at the end of next year are the contracts of Sergei Kostitsyn, Colin Wilson, Blake Geoffrion, Jon Blum, Cal O’Reilly- all set to be RFA’s. While none of those are juggernauts in the offensive zone (or in Blum’s case, a proven shut-down defender… yet), together they make up some decent potential forwards many teams would love to have. When you identify the young core of the team, that’s the bulk of it.
If you’re a player that wants to win now, who knows you are entering the prime of your career and you’re already the best in your position (arguably), what would the lack of activity or retention say to you? Steve Sullivan and Marcel Goc were signed elsewhere for just over $3 million. While those two weren’t the offensive juggernauts, no one can argue that those two didn’t help win game when not injured. With Goc playing on the 3rd line and Sullivan playing lessened minutes (primarily on the power play, where Sullivan did better than most of his teammates), that’s not a steep price to play to keep the team in tact and show the star attractions that the front office wants to win now.
On the other side of the coin, Nashville has a wealth of prospects on the blueline, which is not common across the league and could command a decent return for a trade for some much needed offense. While no one wants to see any of the prized starlets leave town before finding out their worth, there’s only 6 spots on the lineup card for defensemen. After Weber and Suter, Klein and Blum, Francis Bouillon (assuming his health improves) and Jack Hillen, the spots for prospects may be slim for this year. I’m not saying it would’ve been smart to trade Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi, or even Teemu Laakso, but it is smart to try to win hockey games. There’s a balance that needs to be found.
Shea Weber’s contract has put the ball in the front office’s court. He’s asking for the front office to deliver for the team and it’s fans. For the first time in history, the Predators are faced with either keeping their own developed talent that is now proven it can be a force in the postseason (with a one or two additions), or keeping with the strategy of spending to the salary midpoint to cash in on revenue sharing. The latter could be devastating to a fanbase that’s swelled over the last two years, and is craving more success.
If the captain is charged with team leadership, Shea is doing just that. The guys wearing the sweater were a whisker away (and some would say a few dives) from causing Vancouver some major headaches. From a player’s standpoint, he calling the front office on the carpet. If you’re a fan of the team, this one year contract could be the best thing that’s happened to the team since Paul Kariya’s signing, or maybe even bigger. He’s asking the ownership to follow through with their claim of bringing the cup down lower Broadway, and he believes the team can do it if the pieces are kept intact. If he didn’t buy that, he would’ve asked for two years, and been out of here. Instead he’s given the franchise a one-year window to find out what its priorities are.