With the Detroit Red Wings' second straight second-round exit (read it again, it makes sense) at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, a multitude of questions surrounded the team's off season plans as soon as the handshake line dispersed at HP Pavilion after Game 7.
The question of whether or not Nicklas Lidstrom had just played his last NHL game became the primary one, for obvious reasons.
Almost as soon as that question began being bandied about the NHL blogosphere, the idea of him retiring allowing the Red Wings to snatch the No. 1 free-agent defenseman, Shea Weber, away from Nashville started to take hold.
The thinking was, with the (potential) loss of Lidstrom, the Wings may be looking to make as big a splash as they could by landing, or even attempting to land, Weber.
Now, in a totally unforeseen but not altogether surprising development, Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski has announced he is retiring from the NHL.
Whether or not Rafalski has beat Lidstrom to the retirement press conference punch remains to be seen, but, with Rafalski gone for sure, and the uncertainty of Lidstrom's status remaining, the "Weber to Detroit" chatter has begun to grow to a dull roar.
As much as I'd squeal like an 11-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert upon hearing the news that Weber was indeed a Red Wing, there's just no way in hell this is going to happen (I mean Weber coming to Detroit, I reserve the right to squeal at something else).
As for why it won't happen, any one of the following are reason enough.
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I won't even mention the potential first-round picks the Red Wings could lose, or the amount of money they'd have to offer Weber to lose them (well, I guess I did just mention those things, but, I leave it at that) should they sign Weber to an offer sheet.
But, barring some bizarre Chicago Blackhawks-esque contract mailing snafu (that is, failing to tender a qualifying offer in due time to an RFA to prevent him from becoming a UFA), the Red Wings would have to do just that in order to land Weber.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland is as savvy as they come when making free-agent moves, but he is not in the habit of poaching RFA players from division rivals.
Though offer sheets are certainly legal within the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, they're viewed as a little grease-ballish among many NHL GMs.
There's next to no chance that two of the classiest GMs in the game (Holland and Nashville GM David Poile) will engage in a Brian Burke vs. Kevin Lowe-style offer sheet battle over Weber.
Should talks breakdown between Weber and Nashville and Detroit hears that Weber is looking to leave, then they might look to go down the offer sheet road.
Even then, it's a long shot.
It's conceivable that the salary Weber will command from Nashville or any other suitor is likely to be at or north of $6 million.
Detroit will have that much to offer, if they wanted to, but, let's say they offer as high as $7 million.
With over $18 million in cap space, the Predators are more than capable of matching that offer.
Some would point out the fact that cap space and available cash are two very different things, and they'd be right.
Nashville doesn't have the ability to spend up to the cap, and even if they did they likely wouldn't do it in the first place.
However, to keep their captain and franchise defender, they'd match any reasonable offer thrown at Weber and they'd be right to do it.
Now, if the Wings are anyone else decided to offer Weber say, $9 million, it could be beyond what Nashville is willing to pay, but an offer that high would be so stupid, in and of itself, it's not even worth considering as a possibility.
So, let's say you dismiss the first two reasons I've just thrown out and say that, some way, somehow, the Wings could find away to tender an offer to Weber.
He'd still have to sign it.
As he's a homegrown talent, a fan favorite and team captain in Nashville, going anywhere else would guarantee he'd be booed the rest of his career every time he stepped on to the ice at Bridgestone Arena.
However, going to Detroit of all places would be the ultimate insult to his team and their fans. Forget booing; he'd have to travel with armed security anytime he crossed the Tennessee state line.
While the rivalry between Nashville and Detroit (yes, I think there is one) means much more to the Predators than it does the Red Wings, even Detroit would recognize that prying away Nashville's most important player would presuppose Weber was willing to spend the rest of his career as one of the biggest traitors in the NHL.
This may be the biggest reason of all Weber joining the Wings, or any other team, is just a pipe dream.
True, the Predators are not a team that is going to break the bank (assuming they could in the first place) signing all the top free agents over the summer to win a championship in the spring.
Their conservative, build-from-within mentality is a slow road to winning, but, it's starting to work.
The Predators have one of the best goalies in the league in Pekka Rinne, dynamic scorers in David Legwand and Patrick Hornqvist and, along with Weber, have Ryan Suter as the second half of one of the best blueline combos in the league.
These are all players that have been drafted and developed by Nashville.
Add to them the emergence of guys like Joel Ward and the addition of veterans like Mike Fisher and you have a team that has not only broken through by winning their first ever playoff round this spring, but are poised to win a few more in the not too distant future.
The point being, the Predators are good team, and they've gotten good by building from within.
If Weber wants to win, and of course he does, he doesn't have to leave Nashville for a shot at a Cup.
They're likely to always be a darkhorse, but with a solid team and even more solid coaching from Barry Trotz, the Preds are going to be in the Cup conversation before too long.
But, I really didn't have to point any of this out to highlight the fact that Weber himself doesn't expect anything but a long-term contract from Nashville and will be happy to sign it as soon as he gets it.
Going through the sticky and high-risk, low-reward process of tendering an offer sheet to Shea Weber aside, Detroit doesn't have to go that route to secure one or two top-notch defenders.
Ed Jovanoski, Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Andrei Markov and Tomas Kaberle are all set to become free agents and even if half of them never hit the market, Detroit would still have plenty of solid blueline options in their price range this summer.
It would be hard to argue that any of these players would be a perfectly equal replacement for Brian Rafalski, and impossible to argue that with regards to Nicklas Lidstrom (God forbid), but landing one or two of these players would leave Detroit's blueline in good shape come next season.
Weber to Detroit is a worthwhile fantasy, to be sure.
However, it's nothing more than that.
In the end, Jovanoski or Ehrhoff to Detroit may work out just fine and Ken Holland won't have to have the contracts drawn up in Fantasyland to get them.