The Nashville Predators now owe Shea Weber a lot of money, with the emphasis on "a lot."
Contrary to popular opinion, Weber does not owe the Predators or their fans any sort of apology. His only responsibility at this time is to cash the first big check and to show up for the first day of training camp.
When it comes to the business side of things in the NHL, the respective parties are even — emotionally speaking, at least.
Amidst the overwhelming sense of relief that followed Tuesday’s announcement of Nashville’s decision to match the Philadelphia Flyers’ 14-year, $110 million offer sheet, it was easy to forget that the sides went through an untraditional contract negotiation a year ago as well.
Sure this last week was rough for all involved. That was no surprise to anyone.
Franchise officials successfully avoided all the drama and consternation associated with one of their best players being signed to an offer sheet by another club last summer.
They did so when they filed for arbitration, which was their right. In so doing, they blocked the NHL’s other 29 clubs from reaching out and trying to steal Weber with an offer he could not refuse — and that Nashville could not match.
The idea was for the Predators to negotiate a long-term deal with Weber minus any outside interference. Those talks produced no resolution, though, and early last August the sides went before an independent third party to settle the issue.
What came of it all was a one-year, $7.5 million award that made Weber one of the league’s highest-paid defensemen last season, which turned out to be a good one for both him and the team. He further cemented his standing as one of the game’s best with a second straight runner-up finish in the Norris Trophy voting and the Predators — among other things — finally got the best of the Detroit Red Wings, both in the regular season and the playoffs.
Still, the whole thing had to leave a bad taste in Weber’s mouth.
Arbitration works like this: The player says how much money he wants. The team says how much it wants to pay. The arbitrator decides the final number.
The nature of the hearing, therefore, is that team officials spend pretty much all their time focused on why the player is not worth what he wants. So they point out shortcomings. They provide video evidence of failures. They name others they feel are comparable — ones the player, no doubt, views as inferior.
No way was that fun for Weber.
Thus it ought not surprise anyone that this time, when he had the option to file and go through it all again, he opted not to do so. Rather than listen to the only team he’s known tear him down for a few hours, he opted to listen to what other teams had to say about how much they liked him.
The Flyers made their feelings crystal clear with their offer, which now has become the largest contract in team history.
Whether or not the Predators like it is irrelevant. The deal is done and it’s up to them to deal with it.
Yes, he signed with another team and put them on the spot. Yes, he forced them into a deal that might not work best for them. Yes, there was a very real chance that he could have been the second significant player in weeks to walk away from Nashville.
Shea Weber owed it to himself to make the most of the system that’s currently in place.
That’s exactly what he did. No apologies necessary.