Weber is perhaps the most valuable player in Predators' history, and if the team can’t get him signed by August 2, an arbitrator will be forced to decide how much money he’s worth.
One would think the Predators are trying everything they can to avoid this process and sign Weber to a contract before this date for a couple of reasons.
First of all, sitting your captain and best player in front of an arbitrator to point out all the real and perceived weaknesses in his game isn’t a very savvy management move.
Secondly, if Weber goes to arbitration, the longest term that an arbitrator can award a player is two years. Surely, the Predators want to lock up their franchise defenseman for much longer than that and avoid the possibility of him becoming an unrestricted free agent in a couple of years.
But regardless of what happens in the next few days, Shea Weber will be paid and he will be paid handsomely. But the question is how handsomely?
Nashville has filled out the majority of their roster and still needs to spend close to $7 million just to reach the salary cap floor. But they could also sign another player or two and their ownership group is notoriously stingy when it comes to the team payroll. In fact, this might be the main reason why Weber and his agent may take this process all the way to arbitration.
The best way to solve how much money Shea Weber will likely receive is to compare him to similar cases from similar players who are the same place in their careers.
Let’s look at 10 such players who I feel are comparable to Shea Weber.
An appropriate place to start the comparisons is the only other star defenseman whose contract still remains in limbo.
Drew Doughty is arguably among the top five defensemen in the game today, just like Shea Weber. The only contractual difference between the two players is that Doughty is just finishing his entry-level contract.
Both players should receive similar annual salaries based on their status as two of the best d-men in the NHL. Weber is the more proven player at age 25 with five full seasons in the league, where as Doughty has played just three seasons and is 21 years old. However, it could be argued that Doughty has the bigger upside due to his accomplishments coming at such a young age.
Regardless, both players are equally important to their franchises. Weber may be a more physical player, while Doughty is likely capable of putting up more points annually.
There’s a realistic chance that Drew Doughty’s agent is waiting for the arbitrator in Shea Weber’s hearing to make a ruling on an appropriate salary for Weber. After all, the two players are of such similar value that it might be the best way of determining how much money both of them should make.
Duncan Keith’s contract is a good bench mark for how much money Weber should make for a few reasons.
First, because he is roughly the same age as Weber and he was almost the exact same age as Weber is now when he signed his massive long-term contract in late 2009. That contract is for 13 years and pays him a total of $72 million.
Secondly, Keith is also one of the top five defenseman in the world, and he plays a very similar game to Weber. Both can put up points and shut down the opposing teams’ top forwards.
Keith received his big contract midway through his fifth NHL season, and although the annual salary of his deal is approximately $5.54 million, he’s getting that over 13 years. Therefore, the average salary is a little bit less than what a defenseman of he and Weber’s calibre would normally get.
A good barometer for Weber might be to add another $1 million to that annual salary, unless of course the Predators manage to lock him up for 13 years before his arbitration hearing.
He is Duncan Keith’s fellow All-Star defense partner with the Chicago Blackhawks, and he’s almost the same age as Shea Weber.
He is Brent Seabrook, and after playing six seasons in the NHL, the five-year contract extension he signed back in February is also comparable to what Weber might be awarded in arbitration.
Seabrook picked up 48 points last season from the blue line and will now make $5.8 million in each of the next five seasons as a result of his play.
Weber should look for at least that amount as he is every bit as good as Seabrook, if not better. After all, he was nominated for the Norris Trophy last season and is also the captain of his team, which are two things that Seabrook can’t boast.
The 30-year-old Bieksa recently finished the best season of his career and just got a new contract from the Vancouver Canucks.
Bieksa isn’t one of the top 10 or even one of the top 20 defenseman in the NHL, but he’s still an elite player and was paid accordingly. His contract will now pay him $4.6 million annually over the next five years.
Most people think that Bieksa could have received a little bit more if he decided to test the free-agent market. Considering this and the fact that Weber is a better player than Bieksa, an annual salary of about $2 million more per season is a fair price for Shea Weber.
The 29-year-old Hamhuis is another one of the top defenseman on the Vancouver Canucks.
What makes him an interesting comparison is that he was actually Weber’s defense partner in Nashville up until last season when he signed with the Canucks.
While Hamhuis is an elite NHL defenseman, he is not as valuable as Weber. Considering Hamhuis received a six-year deal that pays him $4.5 million annually for his performance as a Predator, Weber should get more.
How much more?
Well, Hamhuis currently is paired with the aforementioned Kevin Bieksa in Vancouver, and those two seem to complement each other nicely. Not only that, but they also have nearly the exact same contract, and if Weber is worth $2 million more than Bieksa per season, then the same rule should apply to Hamhuis.
You might be wondering why a forward is on a list of salary comparisons to a star defenseman.
But if you look closely, the difference in positions is the only major difference between Zach Parise and Shea Weber.
Both Parise and Weber are star players just entering their primes. Parise just turned 27 years old, while Weber is almost 26. Parise has played six seasons in the NHL and Weber has played five. Both players were also drafted in the extremely deep draft class of 2003.
Parise was set to have his arbitration hearing on August 3, just one day after Weber's scheduled hearing, but he came to terms with the New Jersey Devils on a one-year deal worth $6 million. It should be interesting to see the impact this has on Shea Weber's next contract, considering how similar the players are to each other.
You have to go back a few years to make the appropriate salary comparison between Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber.
In the summer of 2006, Chara was in the prime of his career at 29 years old and left the Ottawa Senators to sign a five-year deal with the Boston Bruins as an unrestricted free agent. The deal paid him $37.5 million over those five years, which is $7.5 million annually.
Although $7.5 million is a lot of money, Chara was considered one of the three of four best defensemen in the world at the time, and he is still among the top five or six today. That sounds pretty similar to where Shea Weber is at in his career right now.
Weber might not be quite as physically imposing as the 6'9" Chara, but everything else about his game is very similar to Chara’s game.
It’s generally agreed on that players can get a little bit more money when they reach unrestricted free agency and test the open market, so Weber probably won’t be awarded quite that much money by an arbitrator.
However, an annual salary of just under Chara’s former deal is a very realistic expectation.
Next to Weber, Keith Yandle was the best restricted free-agent defenseman scheduled for arbitration this summer.
Yandle isn’t as big and strong as Weber is, and he hasn’t proven himself as an elite defenseman for as long as Weber has, but he did put up 59 points last season and was rewarded financially as a result.
The Phoenix Coyotes were able to work out a deal with Yandle that will pay him $26.25 million over the next five years. That’s an annual cap hit of $5.25 million.
Yandle is a year younger than Weber and has played one less season than Weber, but he’s at the same stage in his career in terms of his contract status. This will be his third pro contract—much like the one Weber will eventually sign once his arbitration hearing is finished.
While Yandle did put up more points than Weber last season, Weber is a better overall defenseman and deserves a slightly bigger annual salary than Yandle. Nevertheless, Yandle is a reasonable comparison to Weber and his new contract is a decent bench mark for what Weber should make next season.
The 6'4", 255-pound Byfuglien played defense for most of his life before he was converted into a power forward by the Chicago Blackhawks. It worked out decently for him, but when he was traded to Atlanta last summer, the Thrashers decided to turn him back into a defenseman. This was a good decision.
In his first season with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization, Byfuglien was selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game. He also scored more goals (20) and recorded more points (53) than in any of his previous seasons with the Blackhawks.
This was enough to convince his new team to extend his contract and pay him $5.2 million in each of the next five seasons. That’s almost the exact same contract as Keith Yandle received.
To compare Byfuglien to Weber, the two players are almost the exact same age, they are both physically imposing players and they put up close to the same amount of points last season.
The big difference between the two is that Byguglien is much less proven than Weber, having only played one full season as an elite NHL defenseman.
Because of this, Weber deserves a little more money than Byfuglien, just like he deserves a little more than Keith Yandle.
Finally, it’s only appropriate to compare the best current defenseman on the Predators to the best former defenseman on the Predators.
Timonen led the way on the blue line for some very good Predators teams in the early to middle part of last decade. But when his contract expired at the age of 32, the team wasn’t willing to pay him what he deserved so he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for $6.33 million per season.
This is perhaps the best comparison to Shea Weber because he is in a similar position now to the one that Timonen was in four years ago. Just like Weber, Timonen was the captain and leader of a Predators team that was coming off its best season to date. Timonen also put up 55 points that season, similar to Weber’s 48 points last season.
The only difference was that Timonen was an unrestricted free agent and could sign where ever he wanted. Weber doesn’t have that option, but he is much younger than Timonen was when he signed his big contract. This should play into Weber’s advantage if he does reach arbitration.
It’s interesting to compare Shea Weber to some of the league’s best defenseman, and one forward, who are either at the same stage in their career or were once in a similar position to him.
But after looking at their salaries and determining Weber’s value based on how good of a player he is, I believe that an appropriate value for the captain of the Nashville Predators is $6.5 million per season.
This is based on how much more valuable of a defenseman he is compared to players like Bieksa, Hamhuis, Yandle and Byfuglien, along with the appropriate comparison to the extremely long-term contract received by Duncan Keith.
Weber might not be worth as much as Zdeno Chara received five years ago, but he’s certainly in the same ball park (or hockey rink, in this case).
Of course, we won’t know how many years Weber will be paid $6.5 million for because we still don’t know if an arbitrator will decide this case or if the Predators will come to terms with the Sicamous, B.C. native on a long-term deal.