While the front-loaded offer sheet was designed to make it difficult for the Preds to match, GM David Poile went ahead and kept Weber in Nashville.
When all was said and done, Poile did what he had to do. The Predators had three core players who were the keys to their team: goalie Pekka Rinne and a pair of defensemen in Weber and Ryan Suter. Despite the cost, Poile kept two of his three best players and has enough young talent to make up for the loss of the third.
Rinne and Weber are now staying in Nashville, while Suter has moved on after signing a big free-agent deal with the Minnesota Wild.
For years, the Predators have lost many of their best players whenever they became eligible for free agency. Somehow, Poile and coach Barry Trotz managed to keep the Predators in the thick of the highly competitive Western Conference, making the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons.
The Preds remained competitive but only to a point; they always lost in the first round of the playoffs.
In 2010-11, Nashville won a playoff round for the first time in franchise history. It matched that mark again last season, beating arch-rival Detroit in the first round before falling to the Coyotes in round two.
At the trade deadline this past season, Poile was an aggressive buyer for the first time rather than a seller. Part of the reason was that he wanted to convince both Weber and Suter to stay in Nashville. The other reason was that he genuinely believed the Predators had a real chance to make a deep playoff run.
Weber is one of the best defensemen in the game today—if not the best. Last season, he scored 19 goals (tied for the league lead among defensmen) and 49 points and was an impressive plus-21. He was a major contributor on both the power play and the penalty kill and averaged 26:09 of ice time per game.
Poile has some young talent ready to step in and help on defense to replace Suter. Ryan Ellis is a former first-round draft choice who saw action in 32 regular-season games last season and is probably ready to make the jump to full-time NHL player.
Expect to see Ellis play a big role on the power play next season. Roman Jossi and Jonathon Blum are also young and ready to take on more minutes and responsibility—or so the Predators hope.
Nashville entered a new phase last year by adding players like Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov at or near the trade deadline last season. The acquisitions didn't all work out, but the moves put the league on notice that the Predators are contenders and that they won't let their mid-market status prevent them from going all out to win a Stanley Cup.
By re-signing Weber, Poile proved that he intends to keep his team as contenders for the foreseeable future. Was the price very high? Absolutely. Was the contract to Weber more than a little bit unreasonable, especially in the first few years? Sure. But competing at the highest level costs money in the NHL, and the Predators showed they are willing to spend it.
Winning Stanley Cups isn't easy. It takes talent, hard work and a little luck with regard to injuries and a few bounces of the puck. The bottom line is, if you have a chance to win, you take it.
The Predators think they have a legitimate chance. If they don't end up winning in the next few years, it won't be because they didn't try to do everything they could to sign their top players. That alone is a great message for the Preds players and their fans.
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