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Free-agent tension: Latest on Weber, Doughty, Parise, Stamkos

Besides slightly sinister playoff facial hair, Drew Doughty(notes) of the Los Angeles Kings and Shea Weber(notes) of the Nashville Predators have something else in common: They're two NHL stars in need of new contracts this summer as restricted free agents. And they're not alone.

Here's the latest on four key restricted free agents as the summer shopping season arrives.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

The Predators announced on Saturday that they've filed for arbitration with Weber, which shouldn't be seen like a harbinger of doom. It's a protective measure against an offer sheet that might very well have arrived for a franchise defenseman that's one 6-foot-9 freak of nature away from having the hardest shot in hockey.

Will it go to arbitration? From The Tennessean and Nashville GM David Poile:

"For several reasons, we have been unable to complete a deal to date. While it has never been nor is it ever our preference to file for arbitration with any player, we must do so, on certain occasions, in order to protect our assets," Poile said. "This filing will provide the Predators with the protection of securing one of our most valuable players during the upcoming free agency period while affording us the time to work with Shea's new representatives towards a mutually-beneficial long-term contract."

New reps? Yup. No more Newport Sports and Don Meehan for Weber, who has moved over to Jarrett Bousquet of Titan Sports Management, whom Dirk Hoag writes is off to an ignominious start.

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider caught up with GM Dean Lombardi and got the following update on Doughty, a restricted free agent:

Within the past few days, the Kings have made a "major" offer to Drew Doughty's agent. Lombardi has made two trips to Toronto — location of the office of Don Meehan's, Doughty's agent — within the past four weeks, and the Kings would like to get a deal done before the draft, if possible. Lombardi said he is certainly aware of the risk of an offer sheet to Doughty but is not overly concerned.

Doughty made $3.475 million against the cap last season. For comparison's sake with both Doughty and Weber, Duncan Keith(notes) signed a 13-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks with a $5.551 hit and Mike Green(notes) has a $5.25 million hit with the Washington Capitals.

Zach Parise(notes), New Jersey Devils

As we previously reported, the Devils and Parise could be headed to arbitration.  From Fire & Ice, Devils President Lou Lamoriello:

Lamoriello said filing today does not mean the sides will definitely be going to a hearing. "In fact, that's the last thing we would like to do," he said.

If the sides were unable to reach a deal before a hearing and an arbitrator handed down a ruling, Parise would be locked into a one-year contract and be one year away from unrestricted free agency. Regardless, today's move ensures that Parise will be re-signed for at least next season. Unlike with player-elected arbitration, a team cannot walk away from a club-elected arbitration award.

Parise told writer Tom Gulitti that there have been "preliminary" talks with the Devils. Here's John Fisher's take on In Lou We Trust:

The cynic in me would like to think that discussions are more than just "initial," but it really doesn't matter much now. The Devils and Parise's agents now have a deadline of sorts and that will drive them to make something happen before then.  This isn't the first time Lou has been through this before. Travis Zajac(notes) filed for arbitration in 2009 and the two sides agreed to a deal before the hearing.  The only difference this time is that the Devils did the filing and there's more time to make something happen.   So don't freak out over this news; only freak out if there's no contract signed by the day of the arbitration hearing.

Then it's time for a freak out, because Parise goes unrestricted next summer. The Devils don't have a ton of cap space, but as we've said before: No matter if it's an arbitrator's ruling or a new long-term deal, Lamoriello will create space for Parise.

Steven Stamkos(notes), Tampa Bay Lightning

The one we're all waiting for. From Lightning Strikes and GM Steve Yzerman:

One thing Yzerman wants to do is get star C Steven Stamkos signed before July 1, when he can become a restricted free agent. Tampa Bay would have the right to match any outside offers, but Yzerman doesn't want another team setting the parameters. "We're definitely still talking and will continue to talk and continue working toward a deal," Yzerman said.

Yzerman is up for GM of the year in the NHL and for good reason, having turned the Lightning into a team one win away from the Stanley Cup Final with some shrewd and deft moves. Those were for the now; this is his first major test for the future. If he learned anything with the Detroit Red Wings front office, it's to lock in your stars long-term and for a reasonable cap hit.

But Steven Stamkos is no ordinary star. From Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe:

For discussion's sake, let's say someone offered Stamkos 12 years at $144 million. He would be only 33 at the end of the deal. Come the end of the 2022-23 season, if the cap were to climb at the rate it has since it began at $39 million in 2005-06, the nut would be hovering right around $100 million by then. Over the final 5-6 years of the deal, $12 million would begin to look comfortable.

As for the Bolts, what would they receive if they chose not to match? Perhaps not as much as you think. Per CBA compensation rules, any player who receives an offer above $7,835,219 brings the maximum package in return: four first-round draft picks. Provided the addition of Stamkos turns a team into an elite contender, those four picks, one per year, likely would net the Bolts a player in the 22-30 range each year. In other words, no guarantee that any of them eventually will make an NHL roster.

All in all, it's typically not a play general managers are eager to make. However, Stamkos is so young and such an unusual unique commodity, you can bet at least a handful of GMs are considering that kind of package for him.

It should never get to that point. At least that's what Steve Yzerman's hoping.

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