Shea Weber

Shea Weber, Predators seem confident they can reach compromise on new contract

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.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”