Even beyond the simple fact that there was such a lack of arbitration hearings this summer, there was some weird feeling that Shea Weber’s hefty one-year, $7.5 million award was special. The staggering dollar amount could make life pretty difficult for the Nashville Predators both in the coming season and over the long run, but it doesn’t seem like too outrageous a sum for the hard-shooting, hard-hitting defenseman.
It might not be totally out of line with his skills, but it’s still a pretty bold sum. It’s pretty natural to wonder how the arbitrator got to that point, which is something that The New York Post’s Larry Brooks unearthed today.
Apparently Michel Picher was the man who ultimately gave Weber that award (it’s possible that Predators fans might curse his name someday). Brooks reports that Picher rejected two names that the Predators used as comparables: underrated Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle and Winnipeg Jets hybrid blueliner Dustin Byfuglien. Instead, Picher only used two Chicago Blackhawks blueliners: Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Now, you might be asking: but aren’t Keith and Seabrook actually registering sub-$6 million cap hits? (OK, maybe I was the only one asking that.) Well, Picher apparently factored in signing bonuses as well, focusing on compensation more than cap hits.
Would you trade Seabrook for Weber? Anybody would. Would you trade Keith for Weber? Almost anybody would.
“All that I can know is that in the coming season, Mr. Seabrook, who in my view has not achieved to the level of Shea Weber, will receive $7 million,” Picher wrote. “I find Mr. Weber’s position relative to Duncan Keith to be somewhat more problematic, [but] I am satisfied that Shea Weber should be placed slightly below Duncan Keith in the compensation market for the coming season.”
Hence, an elite defenseman is receiving a just reward of $7.5 million by virtue of a decision rendered by Picher that should become a model for any future arbitrator.
Brooks brings up a tough question (at least if you factor in each player’s body of work, not just last season): would you rather have Keith or Weber anchoring your defense? I’d honestly probably need at least a few days/a long walk in an Ilya Bryzgalov-approved park to make such a choice myself.
Anyway, it’s interesting to get a rare glimpse inside the mind of an arbitrator, something Brooks provided today. It’ll be intriguing to see if the Weber decision influences other high-profile cases in the future, which is why teams should follow this summer’s general model by avoiding the process at a all costs.