NHL Free Agency 2011: 10 Teams Who Will Come Calling for Shea Weber This Summer
As you may (or may not) know, Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber is set to become an RFA (restricted free agent) during the offseason.
Why should this be of any interest to you? Because Weber is an elite talent and one that could potentially be available at the right price.
There are certainly a number of teams who could benefit from the services of a blueliner like Weber.
Honestly, who wouldn't sign up for a defender with size (6'4''), skill (40 or more points in four of the last five seasons) and leadership ability?
Not to shabby for a guy who was picked in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft, huh?
Weber's been having himself another good season in 2010-2011, putting up 16 goals and 31 assists for 47 points.
Perhaps what is most intriguing about the Sicamous, British Columbia native is his tremendous upside. He's just 25 years of age (turning 26 in August), yet he's already had such a phenomenal impact on his team and has established himself as one of the better defensemen in the NHL.
You have to believe he's only going to improve as time elapses, and there are plenty of GMs who wouldn't mind seeing Weber doing just that in a different uniform.
How might one be able to pull off such a deal? With an offer sheet, of course.
Should a team successfully force Nashville away from the negotiating table, they would owe the Preds a certain number of draft picks, depending on how much more money they offered in comparison to Nashville's proposal.
Here are 10 teams that might put in a phone call to Nashville GM David Poile.
The Anaheim Ducks have had a pretty good season and, best of all, the core players on this roster are young.
They already have a defensive stud in the making with Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa projects as a future top-four blueliner.
Of course, that's not to say they wouldn't benefit from the addition of Shea Weber, the type of defenseman who excels in every area of the ice. The Ducks do not have that type of player and could certainly use him.
The Sabres have not had a top-flight defenseman in quite some time.
Sure, they've got Tyler Myers, who definitely has the potential to become a star in this league, but the team is still looking for help.
I'm positively certain that Ryan Miller wouldn't mind the kind of support he'd get from a player like Shea Weber manning the blue line.
The Hurricanes are yet another team in search of an elite defenseman. They have a mix of solid players in that position, but no one who comes close to Weber's level.
If Carolina wants to penetrate the Eastern Conference playoff bubble, they'll need to improve their roster.
Shea Weber would be an excellent addition to this team, not just because of what he brings to the table in terms of offensive ability, but also because his presence would allow the 'Canes to compete at a higher level within their division.
The offensively talented Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning would have a tougher time scoring with Weber on the ice.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have been trying to find their franchise blueliner since the team's inception.
Rostislav Klesla was supposed to be that man, but things didn't pan out the way either side had hoped, resulting in Columbus shipping the defenseman to Phoenix on trade deadline day this past February.
Shea Weber could fill that role, at the right price.
With Weber in the fold, Columbus might actually become a playoff contender.
The Edmonton Oilers are no strangers to the concept of an offer sheet.
After all, they pounced upon the Anaheim Ducks when Dustin Penner was an RFA, causing the Ducks to back out and Penner to sign with Edmonton.
The Oilers find themselves in a rebuild, which is why they might be reluctant to give up draft picks for Shea Weber, but they should certainly put in a call to see what type of deal could be worked out, if any.
The addition of Weber would accelerate the rebuilding process, should the Oilers pull off the unlikely.
This franchise has not made the playoffs since Pavel Bure was in town.
That would be 11 years. Yikes.
He may have given up Michael Grabner, but make no mistake, Panthers GM Dale Tallon is far from stupid. In fact, he's proven himself as a quality executive in this league, having put together the core of the Chicago Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup last season (though he did not receive credit for it).
Tallon knows that adding Shea Weber would be a major step forward for this Panthers team, which has struggled so much in the last several years.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are a team on the rise, there's absolutely no question about that.
What they are still missing, however, is a defenseman who excels in every aspect of the game, has size and can be a physical presence.
The Isles have plenty of blueliners who are 6'0'' or smaller, move the puck well and can quarterback a power play.
Obviously, GM Garth Snow wouldn't be willing to part with too much, but you'd like to think he will inquire about the availability of Shea Weber, because if the Isles can land him, they'll go from a team that's merely on the rise to a team that's ready to be a playoff threat.
The Sens didn't have their best season, that's for sure.
Nothing seemed to be going right this year, from the lack of offensive production to the poor quality goaltending they were getting.
One area in which the team may actually have improved is on defense.
Erik Karlsson has emerged as a splendidly effective blueliner, and wouldn't a top pairing of Karlsson-Weber look good?
You bet it would.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay is finally back in the playoff picture, but they're not without their flaws.
Concern No. 1 has to be their lack of depth on the back end, a large reason why the team no longer occupies first place in the Southeast Division.
Victor Hedman should develop into a top blueliner, but he won't be able to carry the Bolts every night.
Mattias Ohlund isn't getting any younger, either.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is a smart man, and I think he'll pick up the phone and call Nashville about Shea Weber.
If there was any "perfect fit" scenario that I could envision, I think it's in Tampa Bay.
Toronto Maple Leafs
You knew this was coming.
It doesn't hurt that Shea Weber is an Ontario native, and you can be certain Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke would love to see him playing his home games at Air Canada Centre next season.
The Leafs are in the midst of a rebuild, but their defense has become one of the deeper units in the NHL.
Can you imagine seeing Dion Phaneuf and Shea Weber lining up on the same blue line for a faceoff?
That's a pretty picture, unless, of course, you're on the opposing team.
Never to be outdone or outspoken, Burke will likely ask about Weber's availability, and if the right deal can be made, perhaps he'll be a member of Leaf Nation in 2011-2012.
Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter: @nyifaceoff360
Comments are welcome.