NHL Free Agent Rumors: 5 Teams That Could Make a Major Play for Shea Weber

Joel ProsserCorrespondent IMay 3, 2011

NHL Free Agent Rumors: 5 Teams That Could Make a Major Play for Shea Weber

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Shea Weber is the complete package.

    A 25 year old, 6'4" 234-pound All-Star defenseman, the Nashville Predator captain can hit, skate, fight, setup a scoring chance with a nice pass or just score himself with a blistering slap shot.

    And more importantly, on July 1st 2011, Weber is a restricted free agent.

    Weber has repeatedly turned down contract extensions from the Predators, which usually is a precursor to a player testing the market.

    There are any number of teams that would covet this second coming of Chris Pronger, and I believe there is a good chance he will sign an offer sheet on July 1st. 

Why Would Teams Want Weber?

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    Weber crunching Ovechkin during the 2010 OlympicsKevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Biography:

    6'4" 234 pounds.

    Born Aug. 14th 1985, in Sicamous, BC. 

    Played his junior for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.

    Playing for Team Canada, Weber has Gold in the World Juniors (2005), World Championships (2007) and Olympics (2010).

    In the 2011 playoffs to date, Weber has played eight games, producing three goals, two assists and a +four rating, while averaging 28:42 of ice time. He also has 20 hits and 14 blocked shots.

    During the 2010-2011 regular season, Weber played all 82 games. He recorded 211 hits, 113 blocked shots, 16 goals, 32 assists, 48 points and averaged 25:19 in ice time.

    Over his NHL career, Weber has played 402 games, producing 80 goals and 134 assists for 214 points.

How Much Would It Cost to Sign Weber?

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    Weber is currently coming off a three-year contract that had a cap hit of $4.5 million per year.

    As a restricted free agent, he is able to sign offer sheets on July 1st. However, Nashville will have one week to match the offer. If Nashville doesn't match, then Weber's new team owes draft picks in compensation.

    The compensation is based on the cap hit of the offer sheet compared to the overall salary cap.

    Based on the 2010 salary cap, compensation would be as follows:

    $4,637,944 to $6,183,925 = First round draft pick, second round draft pick, third round draft pick. 

    $6,183,925 to $7,729,907 = Two first round draft picks, second round draft pick, third round draft pick. 

    >$7,729,907 = Four first round draft picks.

    If Weber does sign an offer sheet, it is going to have to be for at least market value, which I would estimate is at least six million dollars per year. More realistically, Nashville will probably match unless the offer is closer to seven million.

    However, money isn't the only consideration. I get the impression that Weber wants to win and play in a hockey market more than he wants the money. If Nashville can beat the Canucks and go deep into the playoffs, then I think Weber resigns with the Predators unless they low ball him.

    If Nashville loses to the Canucks, then I think he looks at his options.

Nashville Predators

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Nashville has plenty of salary cap space, theoretically anyways. In practical terms, unlike most NHL franchises, Nashville operates under a budget to ensure that the team is profitable. This internal budget has them spending closing to the salary cap floor rather the salary cap ceiling.

    While this does make the accomplishments of the Predators more impressive, it does make it harder for them to retain their own players once they reach free agency. Last year the Predators lost Dan Hamhuis in this fashion, and Shea Weber might be the next casualty.

    So far this year, the Predators tried to sign Weber to an extension, but he has refused, indicating he wanted to finish the season before discussing contracts.

    They would surely love to lock up their captain and top defenseman, but are they willing to break the bank to match market value? Based on their history, I think not.

Vancouver Canucks

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    The Canucks have great forwards whose resume include nominations and wins for the Art Ross, Selke and Hart Trophies. They have a goalie that has multiple Vezina nominations, and a coach that has a few Jack Adams Awards to his credit.

    What they don't have, and haven't had since Ed Jovanovski departed, is a Norris Trophy calibre defenseman (Although Alex Edler certainly could develop that way).

    They have a chance to grab Shea Weber as a restricted free agent this summer to fill that void.

    In Vancouver's favor when making the offer sheet is that Weber has a connection to the Canucks. He has former Team Canada teammate Roberto Luongo, as well as his former defence partner with the Predators in Dan Hamhuis, with the Canucks. And Weber was born in British Columbia, and played his junior hockey there as well, presumably rooting for the Canucks as a kid.

    The Canucks also have enough salary cap space to make an offer in the seven to eight million dollar range if necessary, as Andrew Alberts, Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and Christian Erhoff are all Canucks defensemen that are unrestricted free agents this summer. 

    The Canucks also have their core players (Edler, Hamhuis, Ballard, Luongo, Kesler, Burrows and the Sedins) locked up for the near future at good cap hits, with young players (Tanev, Sauve, Hodgson) on the way up. They could afford both the cap hit and the draft picks in compensation if means bringing in a Norris Trophy calibre defenseman.

    Also of note is that the Canucks can easily get a first rounder or equivalent prospect by dealing coveted backup Cory Schneider, so that would alleviate the compensation owed to Nashville.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    The Oilers have more than their fair share of young, talented forwards that should be top six players in the NHL.

    What they don't have is the equivalent quality of defence prospects.

    Weber would provide leadership for an Oilers team that frankly could use some, as well as anchoring the defence and bringing some nastiness to keep the opposing team from taking liberties with players like Taylor Hall. His slap shot would also be another weapon to improve a very weak Oilers power play unit as well.

    Historically, the Oilers have had problems bringing in free agents due to the climate in Edmonton. As someone who grew up in the interior of British Columbia, and who played his junior hockey in Kelowna, Weber isn't adverse to some snow and cold weather, so that shouldn't deter him. What would be of interest is the on ice product, and I think the Oilers could make a good pitch based on their talented youth.

    That talented core of young forwards is the reason why the Oilers could afford to give up some draft picks in compensation, as they need the help now, not years down the line.

Colorado Avalanche

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    In their heyday, the Avalanche had great forwards up front led by Sakic and Forsberg, but they also had an All-Star defence led by Foote, Blake and Bourque.

    Now the rebuilding Avalanche are in the same boat as the Edmonton Oilers, albeit a year years farther along the development curve. They have the young talented forwards, but they don't have that stud defenseman, unless you still think Eric Johnson is going to finally match his draft potential.

    Adding Weber would solidify their defence and provide some veteran leadership after the retirement of Adam Foote this summer.

Florida Panthers

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    The Florida Panthers have cap space to spare. What they don't have is good defensemen, let alone one that is worthy of a Norris Trophy.

    They also have to deal with star forwards like Stamkos and Ovechkin night in and night out in the South East Division.

    General manager Dale Tallon is very familiar with Weber from his days as the Chicago Blackhawks general manager.

    When Tallon built the cup winning Blackhawks team, he had a defensive core anchored around Duncan Keith, another Norris Trophy, Team Canada defenseman who happens to hail from British Columbia like Weber.

    Tallon also jump started the rebuild of the Hawks from zeroes to heroes by overpaying Brian Campbell as a free agent to bring in some quality.

    Will Tallon follow the same blueprint and bring in Shea Weber?