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)