NHL Free Agency 2012: Should Shea Weber Be a Target for the Vancouver Canucks?
Could the Canucks make room for him too?
Weber is a tempting target.
He's a B.C. native through and through—growing up in small-town Sicamous and playing his junior hockey with the Kelowna Rockets. He's also a two-time Norris Trophy finalist and, at age 26, is about to enter the prime of his career.
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile made no bones about the fact that his long-term plan was to keep Suter and Weber together. He was blindsided by Suter's decision, referring to a meeting he'd had with Suter and his agent back in November (from Jason Brough of ProHockeyTalk):
He said at the time that he is not going anywhere else. He is signing with the Nashville Predators.
Poile did express confidence to Josh Cooper of The Tennessean that the Predators would be able to lock up Weber for the long term:
He believes in us, sees himself as the leader of our hockey club, and I think he, a lot like us, is disappointed with the outcome with Ryan,” Poile said. “So having said that, we have to both get back up on the horse and find a way to fill the hole and move forward. Hopefully that will be together. Right now, if you ask me, I think Shea feels that way.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun got a slightly different spin from Kevin Epp, one of Weber's reps at Titan Sports:
(Weber's) still in disbelief. They were so close this year in terms of the team’s chances...Shea believed there was a good chance that Ryan would stay there. So right now, Shea is still processing this news...We’re not in any hurry. There’s no deadline to this. We’ll take our time and figure out the right thing to do.
That last sentence is music to the Canucks' ears. Garrison might be promising, but Weber is a thoroughbred. He's big, tough and mean. He also has one of the most devastating point shots in the game.
Vancouver was successful in luring British Columbian blueliner Dan Hamhuis away from the Preds as a free agent two years ago.
The Weber situation, however, is not as straightforward.
As things stand Weber is a restricted free agent, which means the Predators still hold his rights. If another team signs him to an offer sheet, Nashville has the right to match or receive compensation in the form of draft picks.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, Weber would become an unrestricted free agent next year, at age 27. Nashville's concern is that, if they can't ink him to a long-term deal, Weber could leave for next to nothing, like Hamhuis and Suter before him.
The waters are further muddied by the uncertainty surrounding the next CBA.
Renaud Lavoie of RDS reported Friday on Twitter that the NHL was proposing maximum five-year contract terms and 10 years of NHL service before free agency, both of which would change the landscape considerably for Weber.
All indications are that this is only an early volley in negotiations, but it's very possible that front-loaded lifetime contracts, like the one Suter signed, will soon become things of the past.
Could the Canucks land Shea Weber?
Weber's best chance to cash in will be before the current agreement expires on September 15th.
For the moment Poile has the best leverage in signing him to a long-term deal, but if Weber expresses a desire to leave Nashville, the trade winds could start to blow.
Weber would have no shortage of suitors, but if it comes down to personal reasons, Vancouver could be a contender for his services. The Canucks also offer a real chance at winning the Stanley Cup in the immediate future.
Alex Edler is also close to reaching UFA status under the current agreement, or the Preds might be interested in the quickly-developing Chris Tanev. For a prize of Weber's caliber, Vancouver could even consider offering a juicy prospect like Nicklas Jensen.
The price would likely rise in conjunction with Weber's willingness to sign a long-term extension this summer, and the bidding could get high.
David Poile told The Tennessean that he plans to speak to Weber next week, after his charity golf tournament in Sicamous. He says he's optimistic at this time.
But he was optimistic about Suter, too.
Canucks fans can only hope that Poile gets disappointed again.
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