Pekka Rinne Contract: Does Star Goalie Extension Open Door for Shea Weber Exit?

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent INovember 3, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31:  Pekka Rinne #35 of the Chicago Blackhawks stops the puck against the Nashville Predators at the United Center on October 31, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Predators 5-4 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne signed the largest contract in team history on Thursday when he completed a seven-year, $49 million deal.

Rinne was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season and posted solid numbers, including a 2.12 GAA and a .930 save percentage.

Next summer the Predators have three key free agents to re-sign: captain and defenseman Shea Weber, defenseman Ryan Suter and Rinne. 

Weber will be a restricted free agent and Suter an unrestricted.

Now that Rinne has signed, will Shea Weber be the one to go?

Nashville cannot sign all three to the money they want, and Weber will certainly be offered at least $7.5 million per season by other teams if the Predators refuse to go that high.

When Weber and the club went to arbitration this summer they really undervalued their captain. The result was Weber being awarded a record $7.5 million salary for this season.

The Predators valued Weber at just $4.75 million, and it was pretty much a slap in the face to their best player and a top NHL defenseman.

Weber knows that he can get just as much money or more from another team, and at the same time have a better shot to win a Stanley Cup.

It wasn't surprising that the Predators chose to sign Rinne first; he's an elite goaltender and a player the club can build around for many years.

The Predators could spend as much 35 to 45 percent of their payroll on three players if they sign Suter, Weber and Rinne to contracts without either taking a home-team discount.

Nashville can't afford to lose Weber so their best bet is to trade him and receive a ton of value. Suter will cost less to re-sign and has become a very good defenseman.

With Weber's salary starting point for next season and beyond likely to start at his arbitration award for this season ($7.5 million), it's likely the Predators won't be able to afford him.

You could argue it would not even be worth it either. Paying a player around $8 million annually can be huge risk in the salary cap era of the NHL, and the Predators still need more offensive talent to really make a run at a Stanley Cup title.

The Predators have done well so far in determining the future of their star players. Rinne had to be signed and he was.

Weber will cost too much for the Predators to build a Cup-contending team for the future, and a trade is the only option for him.

With the massive extension for Pekka Rinne, the door has opened for Shea Weber to leave and Ryan Suter to stay in Nashville.


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Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report and was the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston.