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Predators’ Shea Weber wins record $7.5 million arbitration award

Shea Weber(notes) won his arbitration case against the Nashville Predators, and won it big: He was awarded a $7.5-million, 1-year contract that is the largest-ever arbitration award in the NHL.

According to CBC Sports: "The previous record for an arbitrator's award is $7 million, to John LeClair of Philadelphia in 2000 and Scott Niedermayer(notes) of New Jersey in 2004."

The contract gives him the highest cap hit for a defenseman in the NHL and make him the fifth-highest paid defenseman in base salary. (Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports was first with the figure.) The salary increases the Predators' payroll to $48.7 million according to Cap Geek. The NHL salary cap floor is $48.3 million.

The Predators submitted a lowball proposal of $4.75 million, while Weber and his reps opted for an $8.5 million proposal. In NHL arbitration, the decision doesn't have to be one or the other; those proposals merely set the guidelines.

Instead, the decision is partially based on the salaries of comparable players, in this case meaning players who signed deals when they were eligible for Group 2 Restricted Free Agency.

On The Forecheck had a rundown of some NHL players that fell into that category — Duncan Keith(notes) and Brent Seabrook(notes) of the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as Dion Phaneuf(notes) of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Weber's salary is right in the middle of Keith's ($8 million in 2011-12) and Seabrook's ($7 million).

Now come the implications. Do you feel Weber's salary is justified? Did the Predators royally screw themselves here?

From Dirk Hoag at On The Forecheck:

Do they hope to mend fences and get a long-term extension agreed to? Unfortunately, I don't see that as realistic. If they haven't already, I'd suggest that a frank discussion takes place as soon as possible, to determine whether Weber really wants to stay in Nashville. If not, Poile should place word around the league that he's available.

Weber will be a restricted free agent again next summer, and this salary is now his benchmark. It's hard to imagine he'll take a pay-cut on his next deal, be it another 1-year contract or something long-term with the Predators. We all know about Nashville's frugality with players; heck, it's likely what led to this arbitration faceoff between the two.

If his future with Nashville wasn't in doubt before, earning this kind of bank certainly clouds it based on the franchise's budgetary history. But their intentions seemed obvious: GM David Poile cleared the decks on their roster to make room to pay Weber, at least for this season. Now, he faces a potential summer with Weber (RFA), Ryan Suter(notes) (UFA) and Pekka Rinne(notes) (UFA) all due new contracts.

On top of that, he may have pissed off his captain. From Jim Diamond of The Examiner this week:

According to sources close to the negotiations, Weber was angered when the Predators elected to take him to arbitration. Weber believed that he was a candidate for an offer sheet, one that would ensure a big payday for the next several years. The team-elected arbitration prevented other teams from attempting to sign Weber to an offer sheet.

(We'd still love a definitive word on why Weber and the Predators got to this point, from either side. Because a long-term deal to avoid this hearing seemed likely as late as the NHL Awards.)

Meanwhile, across the continent, Drew Doughty just started picking out vacation homes.

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