The Nashville Predators could not reach an agreement on a new contract with their star captain and restricted free-agent Shea Weber. So, as many before them, the Preds filed for arbitration with their hard-hitting defenseman, in which Weber submitted $8.5 million as the money he hoped to fetch, while the team countered with $4.75 million.
Now, the arbitrator didn't have to pick either of those numbers, but the team submitted such a low offer in hopes of the judge coming further down from the agent's $8.5 million. However, since this IS team-elected arbitration, the Predators must accept whatever ruling is handed out.
Just last week, the two sides were met with a verdict of a one-year, $7.5 million contract, the biggest arbitration award in NHL history. So the captain will remain in Nashville for another season, which at the end of, this whole process will restart, meaning Weber will be a restricted free-agent again next summer and is not eligible for unrestricted status until the summer of 2013.
But what does this all mean going forward?
First of all, it's never good for an organization to submit a humiliating offer to one of the best defensemen in the game today that would make him the 26th highest-paid NHL rearguard. Not that it's all about the money, but I'm sure Shea was thrilled to read that one in the papers. Yikes.
Secondly, next summer, Nashville will have to sign other top defender, Ryan Suter, and bona fide No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne, both of whom will be unrestricted free-agents. As I mentioned above, this entire negotiation process with Weber will restart next summer also.
Signing all three while rounding out the rest of the squad with a competitive group will be quite the task. Best of luck to Preds' GM David Poile. He's gonna need it.
The bottom line? I expect that Shea Weber's days in Nashville are few and far between. By this time next summer, I would expect a trade to have been made.
Arbitration, especially with your captain, is never good for either side. To go through with that again, or even want to re-sign a multi-year deal again in Nashville seems too unlikely to me now.
The players understand and will be the first to tell you that hockey is, above all else, a business. But when business doesn't go well, the players take their business elsewhere, as will Weber.