Predators hope for face-to-face rather than face-off with Weber

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 12:16am

The briefs were exchanged Sunday morning, which means time is running short.

Then again, the space between Nashville Predators officials and captain Shea Weber also will be significantly reduced, which just might be the key to the sides making a deal and avoiding arbitration.

“Any arbitration I’ve ever been to, the player’s always been there to participate,” general manager David Poile said. “So I think it will be the same thing here.”

In the past, the Poile and his staff have taken advantage of such situations and avoided the arbitration process with some of their more notable players.

In 2002, they sat opposite goalie Mike Dunham and his representatives in a Toronto hotel room and worked out a three-year deal. A year later, the same thing happened with defenseman Kimmo Timomen despite a blackout that affected several major North American cities, which forced the sides to negotiate by candlelight.

The contract with Timonen (four years, $10.5 million) was the largest ever given by Nashville at that time.

One way or another, Weber’s likely will set a standard as well. The Predators would like it to be the way things have gone previously.

In addition to its own history, the franchise can find optimism in the fact that each of this year’s first 24 arbitration hearings, scheduled between July 20 and Friday, were settled by the parties without any input from an independent third party.

“We haven’t talked much lately,” Poile said of the Weber negtiations. “The last couple weeks there’s a been a couple phone calls but there hasn’t been any movement. We’re certainly hoping that getting there in person might help that. We have to just see what gets said and whether there will be some movement.”

Weber’s hearing, which was requested by the team in order to guarantee that the restricted free agent could not field offers from other clubs, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Predators personnel traveled to Toronto on Sunday.

“There’s no question it’s not a perfect situation,” Poile said. “Things get said in there that are supposed to represent the player or the team. In my mind, some of it gets stretched either to your advantage or to your disadvantage. Having said that, it’s not the most comfortable atmosphere to be in, and if you can avoid it you want to avoid it.

“We’ve been fortunate not to have any for quite a while. … We’ve prepared a lot of briefs and we’ve showed up in Toronto a lot of times.”

Rules that govern NHL arbitration hearings mandate that the sides exchange their briefs 48 hours prior to the hearing.

That means both sides now know the approach of the other. Either that will serve as the basis for meaningful dialogue or it will prompt them to dig in their heels even deeper.

“If you don’t have some kind of a system to bring parties together you might have — at times — difficulty completing contracts,” Poile said. “ … Deadlines help to get things done. It’s still our hope that we can sign Shea for more than a one-year contract.

“Hopefully we’ll see them sometime before the hearing.”