Arbitrator awards Nashville’s Shea Weber one year contract worth $7.5 million

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The Shea Weber drama is at an end.

Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports reports that the arbitrator in the case between Weber and the Nashville Predators has awarded the team captain a one year contract worth $7.5 million. The deal is just $1 million less than what Weber was asking for but nearly $3 million more than the $4.75 million the Predators hoped to sign Weber for.

The money is huge. The arbitration award is the largest ever in NHL history and it makes Weber the highest paid defenseman in the NHL this season against the cap. It also makes him one of two defensemen making over $7 million this year with Brian Campbell being the other. It puts him at more money than Stanley Cup and Norris winners Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom and sets the bar for what the Los Angeles Kings will look to base their deal for restricted free agent Drew Doughty around.

With Weber locked up now for that much money, the Predators are finally above the salary floor as Weber’s deal puts the Preds payroll this season at $48.7 million according to CapGeek.com. While that’s one problem avoided for the Predators, they may have a big one on the horizon when it comes to Weber’s long-term future with the team.

Arbitration is about as ugly of a way to settle a contract and while Weber has new agents doing things for him as Elliotte Friedman of CBC makes note, this could set things on a bad road for the Predators in their hopes to retain Weber for a long term deal.

There is a feeling around the league that Weber’s contract discussions are going poorly, and you’d have to believe that’s true based on these developments. I don’t believe for a second Nashville’s contract offers are anywhere near $4.75 million. It sounds like the organization is offering above $7 million on a term anywhere between three and seven years. But, several people who know Weber say this is not about money.

It’s about winning. The Predators, in a lot of ways, are a model organization. They get the most out of their money with great coaching and development. But there is a limit. Nine of Weber’s similarly aged (or younger) teammates on the gold medal-winning Olympic team have a Stanley Cup ring. That’s not lost on him.

Even with last year’s historic playoff success, Nashville was 10 wins away from the ultimate victory.

Weber’s said several times he wants to stay and will get a deal done. But people who are much smarter than I am say this indicates otherwise. It’s almost like he’s putting them on notice: a “show me now” message.

If this whole dispute is about winning and not money, you have to wonder what Weber thought of seeing guys like Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan, Cody Franson, and Shane O’Brien get sent out of town or leave as free agents this summer made him re-think things. After all, Weber is set to become a restricted free agent again next summer if he and the Predators can’t come to an agreement on a long term contract. Making that time even more difficult is that both teammates Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne are set to be unrestricted free agents next summer as well. The Preds could be in a bad spot to be poached by an offer sheet for Weber next summer.

If this showdown between Weber and Poile was indeed a “show me now” message, you have to wonder what his opinion is of the Predators summer signings and acquisitions of Brett Lebda and Niclas Bergfors. You also have to wonder what sort of input Weber’s new agents have in helping get things to this point. With the arbitration award being so strongly in Weber’s favor, it helps make Nashville’s offer look even more ridiculous. It also makes their offer look insulting in comparison.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine charged in fraud case

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine has been charged with fraud in a case involving former Ottawa Senators players Dany Heatley and Chris Phillips.

Winnipeg police said Wednesday that the 54-year-old McAlpine bilked Heatley and Phillips out of $12 million between January 2004 and June 2011. McAlpine is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of theft over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime.

Heatley and Phillips sued McAlpine and McAlpine’s parents, claiming money was being invested in unapproved real estate deals, including an Ottawa condominium. CTV Calgary has reported that Heatley was awarded more than $6 million by an Alberta court.

Rask hurt in Bruins practice; Spooner out 4-6 weeks

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Well, the good news regarding injuries and the Boston Bruins didn’t last very long.

Earlier this week, PHT noted that forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are expected to return in the near future, possibly as soon as Thursday. That’s great, but Wednesday turned out to be lousy thanks to one injury scare and one sure-thing that’s a negative.

The biggest concern is that of Tuukka Rask, and it’s something that might not clear up for a while. Rask was helped off the ice during practice today after being “bowled over” by young forward Anders Bjork.

The Bruins might dodge a bullet there, which would be huge if their backup work in anyway resembles the woes of 2016-17.

While we don’t know the severity of Rask’s issues just yet, there’s flat-out bad news for Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins estimate Spooner’s window of recovery at four-to-six weeks for a (cringe) “right groin adductor tear,” which he suffered on Oct. 15. Adam McQuaid suffered an injury in that same contest, so that could go down as a costly date for a Bruins team that has been fairly described as top-heavy.

Spooner, 25, was off to a slow start so far this season. He didn’t score a goal and managed one assist in five games, averaging 13:17 TOI per game. Even during that time, he was deployed in a very protected way, so the B’s can’t really claim that this is more than a body blow.

Even so, the Bruins might sport a patchwork lineup if Bergeron and/or Backes can’t play on Thursday. They’ll likely chalk it up as a win if Rask avoids anything significant, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Grim times for Canadiens: Price struggles, surgery for Schlemko

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Forgive the Montreal Canadiens if they feel beleaguered heading into Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (which is part of NBCSN’s doubleheader).

After another captivating-but-polarizing summer of changes thanks to GM Marc Bergevin, the spotlight shone a little brighter on the Habs to start. Such magnification made it tough to hide the blemishes of what’s now a 1-4-1 start, even if abysmal luck takes the ugliness to an unrealistic extreme.

If getting beaten down in the local papers and in conventional wisdom didn’t leave them staggering, the Habs are also closing off a back-to-back set after dropping a fifth game in a row via last night’s loss to San Jose.

The hits keep on coming, too, with news that an already-shaky defense corps will lack savvy free agent addition David Schlemko for an estimated three-to-four weeks following hand surgery.

You know things are dreary when one of the more positive bits revolves around starting Al Montoya instead of Carey Price.

It’s true, though, that Montoya’s the right choice here. Most obviously, Price played last night, and you don’t want to lean too hard on any goalie, even one who will begin to cost $10M per season in 2018-19.

Price check

Price’s struggles feel like a microcosm of what this team is going through, as a whole, right now.

In the short term, it’s difficult to imagine things remaining this abhorrent both for the star goalie and his struggling team.

Price’s save percentage stands at .885 so far this season; he’s never been below .905 for a campaign. A 3.56 GAA won’t persist for a netminder who’s never averaged anything above 2.83 (and that was almost a decade ago).

The Canadiens are still easily the worst team in the NHL in both shooting percentage and save percentage perspectives at even-strength. They’re doing so despite grading well by Natural Stat Trick’s various metrics, including getting a friendly percentage of high-danger scoring chances (their fellow dour would-be contenders, the Oilers, feel their pain).

So, a lot of those patterns will just sort of work themselves out naturally.

Still, there are some nagging concerns.

Price already turned 30, and his new, massive cap hit hasn’t even kicked in yet. While goalies have a decent track record of aging more gracefully than, say, snipers, Price’s history of knee issues provides some worry.

Even if he continues to be Carey Price in italics, there really isn’t a great comparable for his contract (Henrik Lundqvist‘s is the closest, according to Cap Friendly). Montreal could serve as a guinea pig for other NHL teams pondering building around an expensive goalie.

Growing pains or signs of a fall?

There are also unsettling questions about Bergevin’s vision, and the way Julien uses players.

Bergevin’s win-now mentality is the source of plenty of debate, but it’s objectively clear that many of his moves have made the Habs older. Shea Weber‘s considerably older than P.K. Subban, and even very young Jonathan Drouin is a grizzled veteran compared to Mikhail Sergachev.

Re-signing Alex Galchenyuk hasn’t ended that saga, and the Habs can’t just blame the media, either.

At the moment, Galchenyuk ranks ninth in even-strength ice time average among Canadiens forwards. He’s currently slated for fourth-line duty alongside Torrey Mitchell and Ales Hemsky.

If the goal is to eventually trade him, this is a backwards way of doing so. If the goal is to “send him a message,” there seems to be a better time than when your team isn’t exactly setting nets on fire like “NBA Jam.”

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When you break things down issue by issue, it’s reasonable to expect better times. Still, it’s tough to shake the worrying signs overall, whether you’re just looking at 2017-18 or beyond.

Things could at least look a little sunnier if Montreal can dig deep and come out of this California trip with a win or two.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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