Monday, July 30, 2012

Weber's long-term presence extends beyond his on-ice play

The Nashville Predators made what is unquestionably the biggest hockey transaction in the history of their franchise last Tuesday when they decided to match the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. In doing so, the Predators sent a message not only to Weber, but to the rest of the NHL: Nashville is committed to winning the Stanley Cup.

By locking up Weber to a long-term contract, the Predators have put themselves in a position to be a consistently competitive team for years to come. Sure, signing arguably the best defenseman in the league for essentially the rest of his respective career is good enough in itself. However, Nashville's long-term commitment to Weber could pay huge dividends to the franchise in a number of different ways.

On August 5, 2005, Paul Kariya became the first big name free agent to sign with the Predators. In many ways, that day was the beginning of a new era for Nashville. Prior to the Kariya signing, the Predators had made the playoffs just one time. The infamous lockout that had caused the complete cancellation of the 2004-2005 NHL season had just ended and the sport of hockey, particularly in Nashville, needed a boost. Kariya was that boost for the Predators.

Since that time, Nashville really hasn't been much of a player in free agency. Of the 37 players that made an appearance in a Nashville uniform during the 2011-12 regular season, only Francis Bouillon, Jack Hillen, Jerred Smithson, Niclas Bergfors, Zack Stortini, Kyle Wilson and Chris Mueller originally came to the Predators by way of free agency. The other 30 players were either drafted by the Predators, acquired through a trade or acquired via waivers.

Nashville now has the building blocks to attract other big name free agents. Weber and superstar goaltender Pekka Rinne have both signed a long-term contract with the Predators. As Ryan Porth of brilliantly illustrated, Weber could be a great recruiting tool for the Predators. Nashville has never really been known as a "desitination" place for NHL players. It's always been a stop along the way. Now, with Weber's long-term commitment, Nashville becomes a more attractive option for other big names around the NHL.

Secondly, Weber gives the Predators that iconic figure. The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Washington Capitals have Alexander Ovechkin. For the past 20 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings had Nicklas Lidstrom. Now, the Nashville Predators have Shea Weber. He is the face of a franchise that has been on the rise for the past few seasons. Weber is Nashville's Captain and locking him up for the next 14 years is a huge public relations plus for the Predators.

Weber has not only become just the face of hockey in Nashville, he's become the face of the Nashville sports scene in general. He is the prominent professional athlete in Music City. When people think of Nashville as a sports city, Weber will be one of the first names that are mentioned, much like it was during the glory days of the Tennessee Titans with Steve McNair and Eddie George.

However, perhaps the most important repercussion in Nashville's decision to match Weber's offer sheet is the fact that it allows the franchise to continue to grow and build on the progress that it has made over the last few seasons. Had the Predators failed to match Weber's offer sheet, it's fair to say that the Predators would have been in a rebuilding mode. It's hard enough trying to recover from losing Ryan Suter. If Nashville had lost Weber and Suter in the same off-season, there would have simply been no way for them to recover on the ice for this upcoming season and maybe beyond.

Now that Weber is in place for the long haul, David Poile and the Predators' ownership group has the opportunity to build around two elite NHL players toward a common goal that they haven't shied away from. Nashville is commited to winning the Stanley Cup, and they now have a player locked up for the next 14 years that can help make that goal a reality.

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nashville matches offer sheet for Weber

The Nashville Predators have matched the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. This means that Weber will remain in Nashville for the next 14 years.

There was a lot of speculation around the league that the Predators wouldn't be able to match this offer sheet. This decision by the management in Nashville is a huge statement to the rest of the league that the Predators are very serious about competing for a Stanley Cup.

With Weber now on solidified, the Predators managed to keep two of the three players that have made up Nashville's "Big 3" over the past few seasons. By signing Pekka Rinne back in November and now securing Weber's services for the next 14 years, the Predators have a nucleus around which they can build a team that consistently competes for the Stanley Cup.

Nashville has their Captain. They have the face of the franchise. They have arguably the best defenseman in the NHL, and it shows their fan base that the ownership and David Poile are willing to do what it takes to build a consistent Stanley Cup threat. Here is the official press release from the Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 24, 2012) – In the most important hockey transaction in franchise history, Nashville Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran, President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile and CEO Jeff Cogen announced today that the team has matched the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet between the Philadelphia Flyers and defenseman Shea Weber, insuring that the Predators' captain will remain with the franchise for the next 14 years.
The decision to enter into the largest contract in franchise history was made by all parts of the organization, including ownership, hockey operations and business operations.

As the organization analyzed the overall situation and worked toward a conclusion, the decision boiled down to three questions:

- Was Shea Weber the individual that this franchise wanted to lead our team, a team that would compete for the Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years?

- Would matching the offer sheet be in the best long-term interest of the team and organization?

- Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with "deep pockets?"

The answer to each of the above questions is clearly “yes.” The organization spent the last several days analyzing all aspects of the offer sheet, from economic implications to the impact on the team hockey operations puts on the ice.

 Most importantly was the reaction to whatever decision the organization reached and the impact it would have on our fans, sponsors and marketing partners. We wanted to insure that our decision reflected not just the feelings of these groups but also conveys a strong message to them that our actions would speak for us and demonstrate our commitment to them. It was absolutely essential that they understand and believe that we are doing everything possible to ice a Stanley Cup competing team each and every season.

With this decision behind us, we continue to focus on our mission: Develop Bridgestone Arena into the number one sports and entertainment facility in North America with a Stanley Cup-winning Nashville Predators team as the centerpiece. With Shea Weber in the fold for the next 14 years, we are closer to this mission, and will continue to contend for the Stanley Cup on an annual basis.

Cigarran, Poile and Cogen will be available for a media conference tomorrow at 1 p.m. CT on the Bridgestone Arena concourse to discuss the organization's decision.

There will be no further comment from the Predators until Wednesday's media conference.

Preds sign Wilson to three-year deal

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed forward Colin Wilson to a three-year, $6 million contract. Wilson will make $1.5 million in the 2012-13 season, $2 million in the 2013-14 season and $2.5 million in the 2014-15 season.

Wilson is coming off his best season as a Predator from a statistical standpoint. He notched 35 points in 68 regular season games. His potential is much higher than those numbers, however, and that's something the Predators will hope to help him reach over the next three years.

Wilson has endured the growing pains over the last few seasons of becoming a consistent NHL player. This could end up being a really good deal for the Predators if Wilson is able to perform consistently. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 24, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Colin Wilson to a three-year, $6 million contract. The Greenwich, Conn., native will make $1.5 million in 2012-13, $2 million in 2013-14 and $2.5 million in 2014-15.

Wilson, 22 (10/20/89), set career highs in assists (20) and points (35) while scoring 16 goals in 2011-12. The 6-1, 212-pounder also tied for second on the Predators in game-winning goals (5), and fourth on the club in power-play goals (5) this past season. In 185 career NHL contests since the start of the 2009-10 season, Wilson has 84 points (39g-45a).

Nashville's first choice, seventh overall (first round) in the 2008 Entry Draft spent two seasons at Boston University prior to joining the Predators (2007-09), helping the Terriers win the 2009 NCAA National Championship and being named USA Hockey College Player of the Year in the process. Wilson was Team USA's Most Outstanding Player at the 2009 World Junior Championships and was the only current college player to represent the Red, White and Blue at the 2009 World Championships.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Preds sign Sergei Kostitsyn to avoid arbitration

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed forward Sergei Kostitsyn to a two-year, $6 million contract to avoid an arbitration hearing that was scheduled to take place on August 2. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 23, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Sergei Kostitsyn to a two-year, $6 million contract.

Kostitsyn, 25 (3/20/87), notched 43 points (17g-26a) in 75 games in 2011-12, one season after leading the Predators in goals (23) and tying for the team lead in points (50). In addition to setting career highs in game-winning goals (3), shots (97) and average ice time (16:28) in 2011-12, the 6-0, 196-pound right wing ranked 10th in the NHL in shooting percentage (17.5), making his 21.1 percent success rate from 2010-12 is tops among players with at least 30 goals. In 307 career NHL contests with Nashville and Montreal since 2007, the Novopolotsk, Belarus native has 161 points (64g-97a).

Montreal's sixth choice, 200th overall (seventh round), in the 2005 Entry Draft has represented Belarus in 10 international competitions since 2003, including the 2010 Olympics and the World Championships in May.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Preds issue statement after Weber signs offer sheet with Philadelphia

The Nashville Predators released a statement today from General Manager David Poile regarding the offer sheet that Shea Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Here is the press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 19, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile issued the following statement this morning:

"We are in receipt of the offer sheet signed between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. Under the rules pertaining to an offer sheet, the Predators have one week to decide whether to match or accept the compensation. We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea. Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team. Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it and all of its ramifications in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term.

"We do not anticipate any further comments on this situation until we make our decision within the next seven days."

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Report: Weber agrees to 14-year offer sheet with Philadelphia

According to TSN's Darren Dreger by way of his Twitter account, Shea Weber has reportedly agreed to an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. The offer sheet is reportedly for 14 years and upwards of $100 million.

Dreger also tweeted that Nashville was working on a trade and it is "believed several deadlines passed before Flyers grew tired of waiting." Dreger later tweeted that Philadelphia, the New York Rangers, Detroit and San Jose were all big players in trade scenarios regarding Weber.

Nashville has seven days to match Philadelphia's offer sheet. If they choose not to do so, the Predators will receive four first round draft picks.

While it may seem like doom and gloom for Predators' fans at first glance, this could actually work in Nashville's favor. David Poile and the ownership group in Nashville have stated that they will match any offer for Weber. Now is their chance to prove it. If they do that, they will lock up a player who has arguably become the best defenseman in the NHL for the next 14 years.

We'll have more on this as the story continues to develop.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is Josi ready to take big step?

The phrase "baptism by fire" has been used for hundreds of years as a way to describe a soldier's first time in battle. It's usually a very difficult experience that a person probably isn't ready for until they are actually put in that situation.

While the game of hockey is a far cry from a battlefield, there are certainly times when players are put in situations early on in their careers that they may not be completely prepared for. With the loss of Ryan Suter to free agency, Nashville Predators' defenseman Roman Josi may soon have to deal with the daunting task of "replacing" Suter.

With 52 games of  regular season NHL experience during the 2011-12 season, plus 10 playoff games, Josi had a pretty solid first season in Nashville. After overcoming a concussion in training camp for the second consecutive year, Josi was called up on November 26 last season and found a permanent spot on Nashville's roster throughout the remainder of the year.

Josi's ability to move the puck effectively was his most noticeable asset when he first arrived at the NHL level. The then 21-year-old defenseman was arguably the best puck-moving defenseman on the ice for the Predators. On a team that boasted names like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, that's saying something.

As the season progressed, Josi was able to showcase his offensive skills from the blueline. He saw significant power play time alongside fellow rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis and was even paired with Suter when Weber was out with a concussion in late December and the first week of January. Josi's talent level was evident and it was clear that he possesses the skills to be a special player.

There were times, however, where Josi had his struggles defensively. Whether it was pinching up on a play where he shouldn't have, or not taking the body along the boards and letting the opposing player skate around him, there were times when the rookie defenseman looked like just that: a rookie.

Now that the Predators will no longer have what most considered the best defensive pairing in the league in Weber and Suter, Josi might be pushed to the forefront alongside Weber on Nashville's top defensive pairing. The only question is, is he ready for that?

At 22 years of age, Josi is still a relatively inexperienced NHL defenseman. He's shown flashes of brilliance, but he wasn't a consistent player every night for the Predators. If he is elevated to Nashville's top pairing alongside Weber, he would likely see close to 25 minutes of ice time per night. That is nearly seven more minutes of ice time per game than he saw last year.

Josi is one of the most talented young defenseman in the entire NHL. There is really no limit to his potential if he is able to become more defensively reliable. He has all of the intangibles to be a high-quality defenseman in the NHL for years to come. His speed and puck-moving ability are sensational, his passing is crisp and his versatility is invaluable. The question is, at this stage of his career, is he ready to take on that responsibility of playing 25-30 minutes every night?

If Barry Trotz and the rest of the Predators' coaching staff feel he's ready to take on that responsibility, then Josi will truly be tested throughout the course of the 2012-13 season. If they feel he's not ready, then the Predators have to acquire a veteran number two defenseman to play alongside Weber.

Fair or unfair, Josi has been billed by many as the player most likely to replace Suter in the Predators' organization. The upcoming season will be crucial in not only the development of Josi's NHL career, but the future of the entire franchise. There are so many unanswered questions heading into the 2012-13 season for the Predators but in a lot of ways it's no different from many past seasons. Nashville has always been a team that has heavily relied upon young talent. They will have to do it again this upcoming season, and Josi will be right at the forefront.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Preds can't afford to take risk on Weber

With the loss of Ryan Suter to free agency, the Nashville Predators now turn their attention to two-time Norris Trophy nominee Shea Weber.

Weber has been Nashville's Captain for the past two seasons, and is arguably the best all-around defenseman in the game today. He has one of the hardest shots in the NHL, he has deceptive speed, he's physical and he has a tremendous hockey sense. As far as defenseman go, Weber is the complete package. He's also now the number one priority for a Predators' team that just lost the other half of the NHL's best defensive pairing.

Suter's departure puts the Predators in a tough spot. They took a risk on Suter by not trading him away when it was unclear whether or not he would re-sign in Nashville. The Predators took an "all in" approach to last season, hoping that would be enough to convince both Suter and Weber to sign a long-term deal in Nashville. Well, it didn't. Suter landed in Minnesota and now the Predators have to focus all of their attention on signing Weber to a long-term deal.

The Predators simply cannot afford to take that same risk with Weber. They have the money to make him the highest paid defenseman in the NHL, and General Manager David Poile has stated that Weber is the player they want to build the team around. Now is the time to make him a lucrative offer.

If Weber is willing to accept a long-term offer from the Predators that would make him the highest paid defenseman in the NHL, that's obviously good news for Nashville. If not, the Predators have to put him on the trading block and get something for him. They simply cannot afford to lose Weber for nothing like they did with Suter. It would be a catastrophic blow to the franchise and would put the team into rebuilding mode.

There are several different things that work in Nashville's favor toward signing Weber to a long-term contract. Number one, they have the money. Nashville made a very competitive offer to Suter (13 years, $90 million) and they could easily throw more money at Weber. They have to throw more money at Weber.

Another thing that could work in Nashville's favor is the fact that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA expires on September 15. It's very likely that a deal like Suter's will not be possible in the next CBA, which could make Nashville's inevitable long-term offer to Weber more appealing. He will have a chance to be locked up for 10-plus years, more than likely making over $100 million. That simply may not be possible in the next CBA, and that's something that Weber will have to consider.

However, one has to wonder what is going through Weber's mind right now. With Suter gone, how much does that affect Weber's desire to continue playing in Nashville? Weber has stated that he wants to play for a team that is competitive every year and has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. The Predators had that team last year, but is that the sort of team that they can put together on a consistent basis? It will be harder without Suter but not impossible.

Nashville simply doesn't have a lot of options when it comes to Weber's future in Music City. They have to offer him a long-term deal that is worth over $100 million. If he says yes to that, great. If not, the Predators have to trade him. Weber could demand a pretty big return that would allow Nashville to still remain competitive now and also help build for the future.

It's not the ideal situation for Poile or for the Predators' fanbase, but it has become a reality. Nashville took a risk on Suter and it didn't work out. They can't afford to take that same risk with Weber.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Suter signs in Minnesota

According to reports, former Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and former New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise have agreed to terms with the Minnesota Wild.

Now the Predators have to look toward their future without Suter. What does this mean for Shea Weber? Will the Predators continue to try and negotiate a long-term contract with the superstar defenseman or will they look to trade him away while they still can? Either way, Nashville is in a precarious position right now.

More later....