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Shea Weber, Predators currently locked in a ‘stalemate’ regarding a new contract

Jul 20, 2011, 1:37 PM EDT

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Shea Weber AP

Ever since people really started asking questions, a deal between the Nashville Predators and their all-world defenseman Shea Weber seemed like an expensive formality. Both sides have been saying all the right things while other teams cross their fingers that a few cracks would form in that foundation.

For the first time, there’s a sign of issues in the discussions, although one must wonder if it’s a legitimate sign of worry or just another negotiating ploy. The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper reports that Weber’s agent Jarrett Bousquet said that the talks have hit a “bit of a stalemate” lately, which is a little worrisome when you consider the fact the Predators-elected arbitration hearing is set for August 2.

Here’s what Bousquet told Cooper.

“We’ve had long talks; we seem to be coming to a bit of a stalemate. We still have time to work before the system kicks in,” Weber’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet said. “Shea would like to be a Predator. He enjoys playing there with a team that’s on the cusp of doing something great.”

The two sides can agree to a deal sometime before the hearing and are also allowed to come to terms on an agreement before the arbitrator’s decision comes out (according to a thorough rundown by Dirk Hoag). Unlike in most cases, the Predators cannot walk away from the decision because they nominated Weber for arbitration, though.

Weber has the power, even though he’s a restricted free agent

Weber can decide if he wants a one or two-year deal. That could be important because Weber won’t be an unrestricted free agent until the summer of 2013. With that in mind, he might elect to go with a two-year deal to generate some stability and set himself up for a gargantuan contract in 2013.

Anyone who doubts Weber’s value (and the Predators’ desperation to keep him) would be kidding themselves, but there’s all kinds of thorny issues to deal with. From convincing Weber that this team can truly compete for a Stanley Cup to resolving how many of his unrestricted free agent years he’d be willing to give up, it’s even more complex than finding a satisfying salary mark.

Weber isn’t the only big-name player the Predators need to re-sign soon

Unfortunately, Weber is just one of three developing problems for the Predators to solve in the near future, as Elliotte Friedman points out in his 30 Thoughts column. Weber’s partner in crime Ryan Suter and Vezina Trophy runner-up Pekka Rinne are both primed for unrestricted free agency once the 2011-12 season ends. Friedman estimates that the trio could cost between $18.5 to about $21 million to retain; that’s a massive amount for any franchise, let alone a budget-conscious organization such as the Predators.

(We’ll get into a little more discussion of which of the Predators’ trio is the most expendable a little later on, though.)

Predators GM David Poile must keep the structure of his entire franchise in mind even if he’s taking a “one deal at a time” approach with the three standout players. That’s probably why this is such a difficult process in the first place. It’s not just about retaining Weber, a crucial player to the Predators’ attempts to solidify themselves as an elite team. It’s also about surrounding Weber with the kind of players who will give him (and Predators fans) a reason to believe that a second round appearance is far from the ceiling for this group.

Weber’s deal will have a far-reaching impact on the Predators franchise (not to mention other deals, including that of fellow restricted free agent star Drew Doughty). We’ll keep you up to date as that intimidating salary arbitration deadline rapidly approaches.

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