Those of you who visit this site fairly regularly know that I am generally not disposed to starting—or helping to circulate—ridiculous hockey rumors. Not that “rumors” aren’t part of hockey, only that, if you’re just repeating what you heard from some other sites—and the information is not from a legitimate source—there isn’t much to make people keep coming back for.
I prefer to talk about real things, or enjoy reflecting on my memories of the way things used to be in Leafland when I was quite a bit younger.
But when I think about the Shea Weber situation down in Nashville, I can’t help but put my fan hat on and wonder, “what if?”.
Here’s the thing. An arbitration decision should come down anytime, maybe even by the time you read this. Whatever the number is, while it will only be, I believe, for one year, it will be too much for the cash-strapped Predators. (Too bad, as I admire what David Poile, Barry Trotz and a lot of hard-working players have done over the years in that market—a class organization that has maintained a quality team on a shoestring from Day One.)
Yes, any amount is too much for the ownership group, whoever it is or will be. I can rail on and on that no player should be worth 8 million a year (and I believe that), but that’s where sports continues to go—higher and higher salaries, absurdly high. And Nashville, by all accounts, won’t compete and seemingly cannot compete with franchises that simply have more money to spend, regardless of the “cap”.
Because this is a club-initiated arbitration, they can’t walk away, but how happy will everyone be? Clearly Weber (who I would have thought would have been willing to provide at least a small, modest “hometown” discount for his first and only NHL team, the one that has developed him) and his agent have no interest in that. They (like Doughty/Meehan in LA) want to grab every last penny they can, apparently.
Arbitration rarely makes relationships between player and team better. In fact, it almost always makes things worse. Recent trends seem to suggest that players, after arbitration, aren’t long for that particular organization. So the question now is not if Weber will be leaving Nashville (now, if the contract is enormous and too rich for the Preds, at the trade deadline or next summer, when they go through this process again) but when.
So who wants a tough, skilled, Norris Trophy-winning defenseman? Well, the line starts (alphabetically) at Anaheim and goes down to Vancouver. But not every team a) can afford Weber b) wants to afford a guy who commands that much of your entire cap with one salary and c) actually has enough cap space to make it happen.
I would suggest that one team that could is the local entry, our Toronto Maple Leafs.
We’re kind of back to the Stamkos discussion of a few weeks ago. Of course, as we all knew, deep down, Stamkos was going to re-sign with Tampa. But the Leafs would absolutely have been prepared to make a play for the young winger, and would have gladly offered up some significant names had Tampa been willing to have that trade conversation.
Why does Weber to the Leafs make sense?
Well, when Nashville does move him, they will want to ensure he goes to an Eastern Conference team. You can pretty much figure that teams like Sather’s Rangers will have already spent themselves silly, and certain other Eastern clubs will be up against the cap, too, or won’t have the money to spend because, like Nasvhille, they don’t have ownership with unlimited resources.
The Leafs have the money (or can move people to create space) and the young players to make a deal happen.
Now, I realize that their real need is up front, at (well, I was going to say up the middle, but they need any and all good forwards they can get their hands on, especially if they were to move some to acquire a guy like Weber) the forward position, but if you have the opportunity to obtain arguably the best defenseman in hockey right now, do you make the deal?
I’m guessing the Leafs would.
What might it cost? Well here, we’re even further into the land of conjecture, but I would have to believe the Preds would want a couple of current pieces that they could have some financial control over (Schenn or Gunnarsson and, say, Kadri) and two number-one picks.
Is this going to happen? Likely not, at least not tomorrow. But I’m not absolutely convinced that it won’t ever happen, simply because I just have this nagging feeling that the Preds will (sadly, in a way) have to move their best player. (It’s part of why sports nowadays can be very frustrating for fans, but it is what it is…)
And to me, if they let him go, they will want to ensure they get something good back for him. And one team, not in their conference, who fits that bill is our beloved Maple Leafs.
If I’m completely and utterly off-based, just wrong, wrong, wrong? Well, it’s a quiet day in August. Who’ll remember, anyway?
No chance…or a possibility. What say you?