The Nashville Predators are facing a difficult decision with star defenseman Shea Weber, in the wake of Ryan Suter's defection to the Minnesota Wild.
GM David Poile believes Weber wants to stay long-term, in order to help Nashville "get back up on the horse and find a way to fill the hole." The rest of the hockey world is plotting ways for Weber to leave Music City, either this summer or as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
One escape plan that's been discussed: That an NHL team offers Weber "a one-year, predatory offer sheet," as Jason Botchford of The Province described it recently. If it's "in the $6,268,175-$7,835,219 range, the compensation would be two first-round picks, a second and third" to the Predators.
The first problem with that notion is that the Predators have said they'll match any offer sheet, even if they'd be unable to trade Weber for a year — he'd be practically escorted to unrestricted free agency.
Larry Brooks of the NY Post on Sunday explained a second, more significant issue with that gambit, and it has everything to do with the CBA talks between the players and the NHL.
Any suggestion the Predators' Group II free agent would be susceptible to a one-year offer sheet is misguided. Signing a one-year deal of any kind (including his $7.5 million qualifier) would make Weber ineligible for a multi-year extension until Jan. 1, when a new NHL collective bargaining agreement will be in place that may include restrictions on contract length and front-loading that could cost the defenseman millions.
There are exactly two options for Weber and for the Predators: either a front-loaded 14-year contract with the Predators that, following the Kovalchuk Amendment's bright line, would take Weber through his 40-year-old, 2025-26 season; or a trade to a team that would be able to sign Weber to such a contract.
As we've seen with deals for Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Quick and Jordan Staal, players are acutely aware of the game changing in the next CBA for long-term contracts, especially front-loaded ones.
Weber, in theory, would like to get under the wire, too. A 1-year offer sheet would prevent that from happening; the question is, would a team like the New York Rangers or Vancouver Canucks tender a massive contract to Weber or trade for his rights first?
But that's secondary to the more pressing question: With Poile being given "the tools and the assets" to get Shea Weber signed, according to his CEO Jeff Cogen, have the Predators given Weber the contract he's seeking before the next CBA? And what will it take for him to sign it?