January 26, 2011
Growing up as a Devils fan, I'd often hear writers and pundits opine that Scott Niedermayer(notes) needed to be "rescued" from New Jersey and its defensive dogma, so his offensive game could finally flourish. That these calls frequently originated north of the border was not a surprise.
In the case of Shea Weber(notes) of the Nashville Predators, it's not his game that's allegedly suffering in Music City but his prestige: Like his team, Weber hasn't appeared in the second round of the playoffs, and while the Predators are annually competitive they've never offered a serious challenge for the Cup.
So with Weber looking at restricted free agency next summer, Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province wondered if a rescue plan wouldn't be in order -- and if Weber would be the one to enact it.
So here's the choice if you're Weber. Do you commit to the Preds, knowing they'll always be competitive but they might lack the resources to rise to the next level? Or do you tell the organization, "Look, I've given you six good seasons. I'm going to be unrestricted in another season and I'd like to win. Why don't you move me while you can still get something for me?"
OK, it hasn't quite come to that for the kid from Sicamous. But that's also the reality of the situation and if you doubt that just ask Paul Fenton, the Preds' assistant general manager who's been with Nashville since Day 1.
"We've got some kids coming but, let's be honest, they're not the calibre of Shea Weber," said Fenton. "It would hurt an awful lot. But if that's the hand we were dealt, we'll move on."
Chris Burton of the Preds blog On The Forecheck simply sees this as the umpteenth time a Canadian writer has penned the "I bet he doesn't want to play there anymore" story for a non-traditional market like Nashville. From OTF:
What we have here, frankly, is yet another case of a mainstream media member blowing something out of proportion. It is quite the reach in order to place a spark of hope in the hometown fans that yes, maybe, the Canucks have a chance at acquiring one of the NHL's best defensemen! He's from British Columbia, played in the Olympics here, his contract in a Southern market expires. Yes, surely, he will not want to re-sign with the Predators.
While it's true that we don't have much information on how negotiations are progressing, Willes' sentiments are weak and contrived. Shea Weber is probably the best player in the short history of the team, Peter Forsberg's tenure excepted. Weber is the team captain, and has stated more than once that he's happy in Nashville.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN spelled out the scenarios on a news bit about Weber's contract negotiations in October, which he called the most vital in franchise history:
1. He signs an extension and life is good in Music City.
2. He does only a one-year deal to bridge himself to his UFA year and he can do this by going to salary arbitration next summer.
3. The Preds get nervous they can't sign him to a long-term extension and put him on the trade block over the summer.
Because he's RFA this upcoming offseason, there isn't the same kind of urgency as Atlanta had last season with Kovalchuk, but the Preds still want to start the process.
For the record, Weber told James Duthie of TSN that "I'm not going anywhere. It'll take care of itself," when asked about his impending new contract. Time will tell.