If I were trapped on a desert island and had only one hockey blog/column to read (go with me here), it would be Elliotte Friedman's "30 Thoughts", a weekly feast of bite-size observations that reflect insights gleaned from contacts all over the league.
In his season finale, Friedman went into overdrive, including some insight on the Shea Weber situation that's worth digging into in detail, along with a look back to one of the highlights of Nashville's season...
There is a tremendous amount of quality material over there (including a plug for a book I'm reading now), so I highly recommend taking some time out of your day to enjoy the summer sendoff edition of 30 Thoughts. Heck, there's even a nod in there to one of the most exciting Preds wins of the season.
But let's get right to the Weber stuff first:
28. Shea Weber: the Predators met with Weber this week. Ultimately, they're going to have to say, "Look, we just went through this with Ryan Suter. We need an honest answer." If the response is anything less than a near-immediate signature on a long-term contract, David Poile's probably going to have to trade him -- barring severe CBA changes. Even if the owners got no free agency for 10 years (as in last week's proposal), Weber's played seven. So three more seasons is a best-case scenario for Nashville without a renewed commitment.
We've been down this road quite a bit over the last several weeks, and as you know I'm fully in the camp that says that Weber has had more than enough time to make his commitment here, it's time to work the market and see what offers might be available.
The notion that a new CBA might lock up players for 10 years before UFA status is enticing, and the chance to push this question off for a couple years would be an excellent one for the Predators. I can't imagine, however, that the NHLPA will go for the 10-year provision, and even if they did, it would likely end up involving a transition over the course of a few seasons, just as the league did in the last CBA as they moved the eligibility requirement from age 31 to 27 (see Article 10.1 (a) (i) of the CBA).
In other words, I highly doubt that at the stroke of a pen Shea Weber would lose the chance for UFA status next summer. It's no wonder that he's part of the NHLPA's negotiating team, and I'm guessing that anyone who dares voice such a suggestion in his presence risks the Zetterberg treatment.
But wait, there's more:
29. Been a lot written about a one-year, huge-money offer sheet. Think a couple of good teams have at least thought about it. Look, if you really believe getting Weber is going to mean giving up four 27th picks, he's worth it. Now, I know the counter: what if he leaves you after just one year? This is the dicey part: you almost need a nudge-nudge, wink-wink "understanding" that he's going to stay. And, if Gary Bettman finds out, he's going to CRUSH the team that does it. Google "David Stern Joe Smith Timberwolves."
30. So, if it does happen (and most GMs are skeptical), the more likely scenario is this: a team calls Poile and says, "We're going to offer sheet him if you won't make a deal." (Phil Kessel to Toronto followed this path.)
Now this is a really interesting notion. The Predators were concerned enough about the potential for an offer sheet to take Weber to arbitration last summer, and since a team only gets one chance down that road, they're left vulnerable this time around.
The nightmare scenario? Let's say Vancouver pulls off a Robert Luongo trade without significant salary coming back, and makes another move or two to free up more space (like getting anyone to take Keith Ballard off their hands). If they came in with a healthy offer sheet, you'd have to think that they'd feel confident about their ability to lock up a good Western Canada boy long-term, and would be willing to give up the four 1st-round draft picks such an offer sheet might cost in return (especially considering the assets they might get back in the moves noted above).
As Friedman notes, the idea of a one-year contract in an offer sheet is an especially difficult one for Nashville in this situation, because if a team decides to match the deal and keep the player, they may not trade him for one year.
So... the Preds could match and keep their captain, but would be powerless to get anything in return for him leaving as an unrestricted free agent in July 2013, as Ryan Suter just did.
The choice would lie between taking the four 1st-round picks, or getting one more year out of Weber and then... nothing. And it's not just Vancouver which could pull off a move like this. There are a number of teams with cap room available to make such a deal.
Faced with that conundrum, what would you do?