- Last Updated: 1:20 AM, July 11, 2012
- Posted: 12:24 AM, July 8, 2012
Shea Weber is the player for whom you pay the bounty the Blue Jackets are demanding but won’t get in exchange for Rick Nash.
Weber is not yet 27 and universally regarded as a franchise player who plays the right defense position, the most difficult in the league to fill — and for whom any team’s list of untouchables is slashed to the bare minimum.
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.
Weber ordinarily would have a hand in negotiating power one year in advance of unrestricted free agency, but his leverage is diminished facing the unknown parameters of the next CBA. As such, it is clearly in the best interests of the two-time running Norris runner-up to sign a lifetime contract this summer.
What’s the price to get Weber’s name on the bottom line? Figure 14 years at between $112 million and $119 million, front-loaded for the first nine years with $1 million per in each of the last five years, for a cap hit of between $8 million and $8.5 million per. Seriously, with Nash at $7.8 million per and Ryan Suter at over $7.538 million per, Weber — between $8 million and $8.5 million per is an automatic.
It’s far more difficult, however, to determine the price necessary to pay the Predators to emerge with Weber, out of what unquestionably would explode into the bidding war Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson has tried unsuccessfully for five months to stoke for Nash.
The Rangers have all sorts of players quarantined in their bid for Nash, and well they should. But for Weber, an intimidating physical force at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds who was on ice for more power-play goals scored than any other player in the league, the list would be as short as this:
1. Henrik Lundqvist (redundant anyway with Nashville owning Pekka Rinne); 2. Ryan McDonagh; 3. Ryan Callahan; 4. Dan Girardi; 5. Chris Kreider.
That would be it. Everyone else in the organization would be on the table, understanding that Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik have no-move or no-trade clauses and wouldn’t be part of the discussion in any event.
We understand the organization is in love with its core of Bluebloods whose development unexpectedly brought the Rangers so near and yet so far from the Cup last year. Who wouldn’t be?
And yet, as close as the Rangers came to beating the Devils and reaching the Final, they were closer to losing both to the Senators in the first round and the Capitals in the second round.
And yet, the Rangers were 10-10 in the playoffs after going 8-8-2 in their final 20 games of the regular season, thus finishing 18-18-2 in an environment where it is exponentially more difficult to win games by outworking opponents.
So near, yet so far.
The Rangers need to add offense, absolutely. But they could do that by adding a weapon on the power-play point every bit as much as they could by adding a winger. Fact is, the team ranked right in the middle of the league in five-on-five goals while finishing 23rd in power-play efficiency.
Weber was on for 47 of the 54 goals Nashville scored in leading the NHL at 21.6 percent on the man-advantage, on for one power-play goal every 5:38, another NHL best. For comparison, Michael Del Zotto, on at the point for 28 of the Blueshirts’ 44 PPGs, had a ratio of one for every 11:31.
McDonagh is a budding perennial Norris candidate. Weber has been beaten for the Norris in successive years by Nick Lidstrom and Erik Karlsson in votes as tight as Kennedy/Nixon in 1960. Girardi finished sixth in the balloting last year.
If the defense-first-last-and-always Rangers could get Weber, they would stand to have at least one Norris-caliber defenseman on the ice essentially all game. There is something to be said for doubling down on a strength.
Can the Rangers get Weber? Who knows? A feeding frenzy would develop if Weber is made available. Every big time team in the league would be in on him.
But he’s the guy worth the bounty.
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