Does arbitration signal the premature end of the Shea Weber era?

Well, the deal didn't get done, and the Nashville Predators actually went into salary arbitration with star defenseman Shea Weber. A ruling is expected Thursday morning on a 1- or 2-year contract, with the term chosen by the player.

I know we're all fans here and want this team to succeed, but there's no question that this is a troubling development, which can lead one to question the statements from both sides all along. Was the team really willing to make Weber one of the highest-paid defensemen in the league? Does Shea really want to stick around long-term, or would he rather just get to free agency and control his future?

All throughout the season, Weber spoke often about getting the deal done, but I don't recall if he made similar statements after switching agents in late June. Was there a sea-change in his thinking, perhaps? We probably won't know for another couple days, as the two sides aren't supposed to talk about the substantive matters in the proceedings until the arbitrator releases his decision.

Interestingly, however, Weber's agency fired off this update on Twitter:

Just on a break at Shea Webers arbitration hearing. 1st time in NHL history a "team elected arbitration" has gone to hearing.    

I have no way to verify that information, but it would be interesting to research.

Here today, gone tomorrow?

Teams and players that go through this process tend not to stick together long-term. In Preds history, Denny Lambert was traded just days after his hearing, and Ville Koistinen was gone a year after his. Daniel Winnik was traded by Phoenix within a year of his award in 2009, as was Milan Jurcina in Washington and Blake Wheeler (2010) in Boston. By my count, 11 players have gone through arbitration in 20082009, and 2010, and 10 of those players had moved to a new team within a year.

The uncomfortable, but natural question coming out of all this is whether the Shea Weber era in Nashville might end before it even got rolling.

Given the situation as it stands today, is this the guy the Preds really want wearing the "C"? Does he even want it? And what does this mean for the prospect of locking up Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne as well?

I'm not trying to be alarmist, but arbitration most often signals the beginning of the end of a player-team relationship, and it's stunning to see the Predators and their captain get to this point.

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