Why it seems unlikely that the Nashville Predators would trade Shea Weber

It’s (an understandable) dream of Oilers fans to see Shea Weber traded to Edmonton. Not only is he from Western Canada, big, strong and capable, but he’d fill the #1 defenceman hole that Edmonton has had since Chris Pronger left town.

Those dreams seem destined to go unfulfilled.

Get Used To Disappointment

Why would Nashville trade one of the league’s precious few franchise defenders? The answer always seems to be “they’re a small market club and they can’t afford him.” By their actions, though, it seems clear that the Predators have decided they can’t afford not to pay him.

The Economics of a Trade

Shea Weber signed his current contract – via a Philadelphia Flyers offer sheet – on July 19, 2012, forcing the Predators to either match and hang on to Weber for at least a year, or decline to match and accept four first-round picks in exchange for Weber’s services. The Flyers made it as difficult as possible for Nashville by structuring the contract to be extremely front-loaded.

No NHL player made more money in 2012-13 than Weber. More than that, Weber’s contract is structured to be heavily bonus-intensive – featuring a $1 million base salary and a $13 million signing bonus for each of the first four years. The signing bonuses mean that by the time Weber could be traded by the Predators, they will have paid $27 million of the $110 million on his contract – just slightly under one-quarter of his total contract in the first year.

Facing a $110 million decision, one has to think the Predators weighed the cost. None of these ramifications were unknown at the time; the Predators knew what they were getting into matching that offer sheet. If it made sense to sign him then, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to change their mind and move him after having already taken the worst lumps.

Certainly that’s the message general manager David Poile has always emphasized – asked about the possibility of a trade by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman in April, he made no secret as to his view:

We have a franchise goaltender and the best defenceman in the NHL … We are building our team around them.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: either the Predators made a terrible mistake, Poile’s being disingenuous, and the team plans to try and get a better return than four first round picks after spending $27 million for 48 games or they really have no plans to trade Weber. The latter seems more likely to be reality than the former. None of that means the Oilers shouldn’t ask, but it does mean not much is likely to come of it. 

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  • Quicksilver ballet

    If Gretzky can be traded… the unlikeliest of all hockey deals.

    A team like the Predators, is much like the Oilers pre-lockout, hangers on in a small market. Operating near the bottom of the barrel counting heavily on revenue sharing to cover the shortfalls. There’s no way they could ever afford to be a cap team. I believe the last 5 yrs they’ve been in the bottom 3 in the NHL as far as salaries go, consistently 10-13 million per season under the cap. Doesn’t exactly scream, we’re pushing to be the best. Looks more like, that’s good enough for this market to me. The Predators have been building around their blueliner and goaltender, but they’ll still be doing the same thing 5 yrs after these guys are retired. Unless the Preds get their hands on a generational type player, success will be difficult near the bottom of the barrel structure ownership is clinging to.

    Too much coin tied up in one player. Poile would have to give it a second thought if Edmonton offered Eberle and Gagner to help bolster their top 6. Heck, give them Smid or Nick Shultz along with the first in 2014 as well.

    Some trades are just good business transactions that help both hockey teams. I’m hoping.

    • Word to the Bird

      You said it yourself, too much coin in one player.

      Do you have ANY idea how much value these first overall picks will be in their prime? Past first overall forwards in the past 5 years:

      Tavares
      Stamkos
      Kane
      Crosby
      Ovechkin

      You tell me that we’ll be able to afford 3 with Weber on the books.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Very different scenarios. Pocklington was bleeding cash and the team’s finances were in deep trouble. The Oilers basically had a fire sale from 88-93 because of his financial instability and eventual bankruptcy. Nashville is different because they are stable economically but just cannot afford to spend to the cap. They’re actually better off spending that cash on assets like Weber and then finding economical veterans like Wellwood, Antropov, etc.

  • Word to the Bird

    His contract would be the biggest albatross down the road. It would be much smarter to go for a cheaper alternative. Perhaps a risk on Tyler Myers? I just don’t see why we need a Dman of Weber’s caliber.

    It reminds me of when I was listening to OilersNow and someone called in saying “Bob did you hear about the Nugent-Hopkins and a first for Malkin rumours?”