Shea Weber said it often enough to suggest he still was not sure it was real.
Ownership stepped up.
A day after the Nashville Predators matched the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, the 26-year-old captain tried to stress that he was satisfied with the outcome even if it might not have been the one he expected.
“You look at the past and what’s gone on with the franchise and players going through the organization — I think this is what we needed,” Weber said. “We needed ownership to step up and show that we’re stable and we can do this kind of thing.”
That was a familiar refrain throughout a conference call with media members from throughout the United States and Canada on Wednesday afternoon as Weber spoke publicly for the first time about his landmark contract and the process that led to it.
The restricted free agent was motivated purely by the current, unstable business climate of the NHL to seek a blockbuster deal at this time, he said. The decision to sign an offer sheet with another club was the best way to do that even though, once he did, it limited his options to those two franchises, Nashville and Philadelphia.
“It’s the business side of it,” he said. “I think we utilized the CBA the best way we could while it’s the way it is. It worked out. I love it in Nashville. The team stepped up and showed that they’re going to spend with the best of teams.
“Now we can focus on the season and hopefully get more pieces of the puzzle and building a contending team for a long time.”
Weber’s deal, which was preceded earlier this week by much smaller ones to forwards Sergei Kostitsyn (two years, $6 million) and Colin Wilson (three years, $6 million), brings the Predators’ current salary cap figure for the coming season to $53.711 million, according to capgeek.com.
That is just under the minimum requirement of $54.2 million and slightly less than $16.5 million away from the maximum. Those numbers are tentative, however, pending the resolution of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, during which owners likely will push for tighter rules on the term and size of contracts.
“I love the city of Nashville,” Weber said. “I love the fans. I love my teammates. Like I said before, it’s a very positive thing that the ownership has stepped up and be a team that’s going to spend to the cap, bring guys in and be a successful team.”
The Predators still would like to add a veteran defenseman — either through free agency or a trade — to play in one of their top two pairs. Chances are, though, any such move will not happen until after the salary boundaries for 2012-13 are set in stone.
In the meantime, Weber said he would like a no-trade clause added to the deal (there are distinct differences between an offer sheet and a player contract).
“I look forward to working with Shea for a long time,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s an outstanding individual. The process, I know, for Shea and for the organization hasn’t been easy, but it’s part of the business. His group, his agents used the CBA very well and Shea is locked up long-term financially and we feel really good about having him long-term in the organization. It was a great step up by our ownership.”
A step that Weber had to see in order to believe.
“It’s a situation where a lot of people doubted them,” he said. “They said from the beginning if there was an offer sheet they were going to match it. Obviously, they were challenged and stepped up. That’s exactly what we were looking for and it’s exciting.
“… It’s a big step in the right direction. The ownership showed a big commitment here in the last week and, obviously, going forward.”