May 11, 2011, 7:20 PM EDT
The unrestricted free agent field looks like it will be pretty marginal this summer, but there are three huge restricted free agent situations that could make things interesting. The Nashville Predators must wrap up Shea Weber, the Los Angeles Kings must re-sign Drew Doughty and the Tampa Bay Lightning will be forced to give Steven Stamkos a huge raise.
Each situation has its own quirks, but the Predators might be the team that faces the most urgency in getting a deal done before their guy hits restricted free agency. There is no secret that this small market team has a tight budget, so finding a way to wrap up their Norris Trophy candidate* might be difficult.
Despite the perceived challenges, both Weber and the Predators seem confident that they can get a deal done.
Along with Nashville’s limited budget, one other thing that makes the Weber situation interesting is his age. The elite defenseman is 26 years old, which means that he’s just one year away from being permitted to seek unrestricted free agency.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Weber’s agent asks for a high-salary, low-term deal while the Predators shoot for something closer to the five or six year range. Term was the big concern in Bobby Ryan‘s lengthy negotiations with the Anaheim Ducks last summer and it could be that way with Weber again.
Either way, the Predators would be wise to get a deal done before July 1. Weber’s combination of toughness, size, heady defensive play and solid offensive acumen makes him a rare blueline find. Any number of teams might decide it’s worth a substantial investment in money and draft picks to present a truly ridiculous offer sheet to the still-in-his-prime defenseman. Nashville would be wise to keep other teams out of an already delicate process.
Here are few comments from Weber, via RLD Hockey.
“I love it here,” said Weber, “The people in Nashville are awesome. Our fans are the best in the league and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”
“It’s going to happen,” Weber said of re-signing. “It’s only a matter of time before something gets done.”
All sides are saying the right things, but it will be interesting to see how this situation works out.
* – If you ask me, Weber’s volume of hits, substantial ice time and point producing ability make him the guy who should win the Norris for the 2010-11 season.
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