$24 million reasons the Predators should still be concerned about Shea Weber’s health

He isn’t on the team anymore, but Shea Weber’s future could still impact the Predators salary cap.

Former Nashville Predators captain/current Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber is going to be just fine, say the Habs.

After less than 24 hours of speculation that Weber’s career could be done—not just his season—Montreal quelled the concerns of fans with an update on his injury, silencing the NHL rumor mill by confirming their top defender suffered a high left ankle sprain while blocking a Wayne Simmonds shot Feb. 4 in New Jersey. They went on to say he would miss four to six weeks and is expected to make a full recovery.

That’s good news for a myriad of reasons, including both that Weber is still very near and dear to many of the Smashville faithful and that if this were to be ‘it’ for Weber, the Predators would be screwed in deep trouble.

All decent people agree that you never want to see a player’s career taken from them by injury, but Preds fans may want to do whatever superstitious rituals they do for the health of their former captain so he finishes his current contract.

To be clear, the Predators’ concern is whether he makes the decision to retire.

Why should you care?, you may be wondering. Let’s break that down.

The Salary Cap

Ah, yes, the dreaded enemy of numbers; ever present, ever a pain.

You may recall that whopping contract Predators General Manager David Poile handed his then-captain on a silver platter back in the summer of 2012. It wasn’t necessarily the yearly hit that made eyes bulge, rather it was the length. 14 years—read it again, folks—a 14-year contract for the then-27-year-old at an annual cap hit of $7,857,143.

The contract itself wasn’t actually GMDP’s fault—not completely, anyway. Weber, a restricted free agent in contentious negotiations for his next contract at the time, signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers worth $110 million over 14 years. Five days later, GMDP ‘fixed’ the conundrum by matching the offer.

In the end those 14 years only lasted four years before he was shipped off to Montreal.

The recapture penalty

On paper (according to the salary cap), the Predators only spent $31,428,572 of the $110 million contract. However, in reality, the Predators spent $56 million due to the way the salary was structured: $14 million for each of the first four years, $12 million for two years, $6 million for four years, $3 million for one year, and $1 million for the last three years.

Some of you may be thinking, “wow, that’s pretty smart to front-end deals like that”—you and most NHL GMs at the time. This was a fairly popular trend at the time and a way to cheat the salary cap; most of the money up front with little loss at the end if the player couldn’t last a decade and a half. However, the NHL yelled, “that’s cheating!”—at least in the cartoon happening in my head. In reality, I’m sure what they said was a more professional version of calling their GMs cheaters, and thus was born the ominous recapture penalty.

Shea Weber is owed $47,142,858 over the next six seasons according to his average annual value (AAV). Weber will only make $24 million thanks to his contract structure. However, if he retires before his contract ends in 2026, when he is 40 years old, the team that benefited from the front-loaded nature of that contract (the Predators) will be on the hook for the recapture penalty.

If you don’t understand how it works, you’re not alone. This penalty is a headache and a half—probably less so for those gifted in math, but still a headache.

Here’s how it works:

When a player retires before their contract is up, the NHL now takes a look at the total salary already paid to the player and compares it to the cap hit they were charged. Any money the team saved on the AAV due to the structure of the contract now becomes available for recapture.

Still with me? Good. Let’s look at the numbers now for a full breakdown.

  • What the Predators paid Weber over four years: $56 million
  • What the Predators paid according to the salary cap: $31,428,572
  • The difference: $24,571,428/

Confused? I wouldn’t blame you. It doesn’t seem fair—the Predators paid more up front, why should they be responsible for the difference? Good news, I have an answer for you: the Predators saved nearly the exact same amount of money on the back end as the difference on the front end that they lost—$24,571,430, to be exact. Math.

Weber has six full years remaining on his contract. If he retires, the Predators will be required to pay $24,571,428 divided by the number of years remaining on the contract:

  • $4,095,238 if he retires in ‘20-’21 (35 years old)
  • $4,914,285.6 if he retires in ‘21-’22 (36 years old)
  • $6,142,857 if he retires in ‘22-’23 (37 years old)
  • $8,190,476 if he retires in ‘23-’24 (38 years old)
  • $12,285,714 if he retires in ‘24-’25 (39 years old)
  • $24,571,428 if he retires in ‘25-’26 (40 years old) — the whole darn thing. Yikes./

When I say, “pay,” there’s no money that is actually exchanged — the recapture is a penalty. The Predators will “pay” in the salary cap. Instead of a check being written, the money will be taken out of their current cap space, affecting current and future potential signings.

In other words, let’s hope Shea Weber still feels really bad about the whole ‘Poile’s glass eye’ incident and his knee and foot hold up for six more years.

Why this is bad for Nashville

In the next six years, the Predators have some big names due for new contracts and not a ton of wiggle room in cap space.

  • ‘20-’21: Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith, Rocco Grimaldi, Colin Blackwell, Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber, Matt Irwin, Yakov Trenin (RFA)
  • ‘21-’22: Nick Bonino, Jarred Tinordi, Pekka Rinne, Dante Fabbro (RFA), Juuse Saros (RFA)
  • ‘22-’23: Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Mattias Ekholm
  • ‘23-’24: Austin Watson
  • ‘24-’25: Kyle Turris, Viktor Arvidsson
  • ‘25-’26: Ryan Johansen/

For clarity, everyone on this list could potentially be moved at any time for reasons that don’t involve Shea Weber whatsoever. This is just a look at where the Predators sit currently.

Does this impact the trade deadline?

Answer: no.

Even with Weber’s current fragile state, there is little reason for the Predators GM to factor in his former captain this trade deadline season. Weber is set to return in six weeks at the latest and has not hinted at retirement. However, Weber’s health and any speculation on retirement should be watched by Predators fans and front office more closely in the future.

Current injury outlook

The concern for Weber’s future was not solely due to Montreal’s silence on the situation and a report from Nick Kypreos, but also due to two recent surgeries which required six months of recovery. Sportsnet reported the defender had surgery in March 2018 to repair a torn tendon in his left foot and also needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in July of that same year.

That’s two painful injuries for a guy who skates in cold conditions for a living, coupled with a current high left ankle sprain.

WWSD: What Would Shea Do?

Shea Weber is 34 years old, with two kids and a wife, and has undergone two significant surgeries on his lower body in the last two years. He has yet to win a Stanley Cup, which is motivating, but he doesn’t just have himself to consider when it comes to his health anymore.

It’s possible that after a few more brutal injuries, Weber might no longer be able to play without significant pain. He could go on Long Term Injury Reserve, but to do that he would have to show up to camp every year and fail a physical. If doctors were to clear him during that time, he would have to go back on the roster. That seems like a lot of trouble, hypothetically speaking. Personally, I believe in this situation Weber would choose to retire—health is more important.

Putting any immediate pain he could potentially feel or be feeling to the side, let’s remember Weber’s contract doesn’t end until he’s 40 years old. Montreal is currently out of a playoff spot, and their playoff outlook for the future isn’t much brighter. Asking a player to continue to play on a surgically repaired foot and knee is asking a lot. I’m not counting Weber out yet, just thinking realistically.

WSTPD: What Should the Predators Do?

There’s nothing the Predators can or should do right now but sit back and wait—and rightfully so.

To reiterate, the only concern the team and fans alike should have is if Weber decides to retire and for now, that seems unlikely.

What do you think? Are you concerned about how Shea Weber’s future could impact the Predators?

Are you concerned about how Shea Weber will impact the Predators?