At least Shea Weber and David Poile agreed on the fact that they couldn’t agree.
Following Wednesday’s arbitration ruling that gave Weber the largest single-season contract in Nashville Predators history -- $7.5 million for 2011-12 –the captain and the general manager accepted blame equally for the fact that months of negotiations failed to produce a resolution.
“The onus has got to be on both sides because we didn’t come to a long-term deal,” Weber said. “Obviously this is a temporary solution.”
Added Poile: “We negotiated long and hard for many, many meetings, and we talked from a one-year contract to a many-year contract. … We just couldn’t quite agree on the term, the length or the structure. So we just didn’t get it done.”
The team requested the process at the start of the new contract year as a way to guarantee that Weber, a restricted free agent, could not be signed to offer sheets by any of the NHL’s other franchises. The idea was that – free of interference – the sides would agree to a new deal on their own well before they ever got to this point.
Tuesday morning, Weber and his representatives requested an $8.5 million award, and the Predators countered with a $4.75 million bid. The binding decision, much closer to Weber’s desire, came down a little more than a day later.
“It’s a business,” Weber said. “Obviously, they’re trying to get the best deal they can – if that’s what you want to call it. … It’s not personal. It’s a business.
“…Hopefully we can get something done for long-term, but for now a one-year deal is done, and I’m excited to get ready for the season.”
Based on salary cap impact, Weber will be the highest-paid defenseman in the league this season.
At 25 years old (he will turn 26 in a little more than a week) he already has played more than 400 NHL contests and has been the team captain for one season. Earlier this year he became the first Nashville player to earn first-team All-Star honors and was a runner-up to Nicklas Lidstrom for the Norris Trophy (top defenseman). In 2010 he was a key member of Canada’s gold medal winning team at the Olympics.
“The process was the process,” Poile said. “Arbitration was not the preferred route to go, but what’s done is done and it is over with.
“…Shea, by this award, certainly got recognized as one of the top, if not the best defensemen in all of the National Hockey League. This is something we’ve known, if you will, for a lot of years. … [Wednesday’s] award is certainly reflective of his value to the Predators and his worth in the National Hockey League.”
A long-term deal with Weber figured to be the first significant step in the club’s attempt to solidify its future on the strength of a trio of players – Weber, his defense partner Ryan Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne.
Now the team faces the process of three major negotiations prior to the start of the of the 2012-13 season – and it does so with this failed one as a backdrop.
“I think my relationship is good with Shea; I think my relationship is good with his agent.” Poile said. “We didn’t get a deal done. There’s reasons why we didn’t get a deal done – it’s as simple as term and salary and structure. That can be viewed as a failure. Maybe it’s an opportunity.
“All I know is this is where we are. I can’t untie that. Shea has been a big part of our team since he was drafted. I know he likes it here and I am certainly not pessimistic, I am optimistic that we eventually will get a longer-term deal done.”