Shea Weber

Would it make sense for Nashville to trade Weber?

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Shea Weber is the face of the Predators’ franchise, the team captain, and one of the best defensemen in the league. So why would they trade him?

If you asked Predators GM David Poile, his response would be rather simple: We wouldn’t.

“We’re keeping him, we’re building our franchise around him,” Poile said in June. He added, “Why wouldn’t we build our team around him?”

Poile’s denials haven’t been enough to kill the speculation surrounding Weber’s future though and part of the problem is that there are legitimate answers to his question. For starters, the Predators are a small market team and the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet that Weber signed with Philadelphia — which Nashville matched to retain his rights — wasn’t built for Nashville. If anything, it was structured to make it as hard as possible for the Predators to keep him.

Weber’s contract is a relic of the old CBA in the sense that it’s severely front-loaded. He will earn $14 million annually for two more seasons and then $12 million annually for another two campaigns after that. However, his cap hit is roughly $7.9 million, which is very reasonable in this market. The wealthier teams in the league would gladly stomach his actual salary to get Weber at that cap hit and if Nashville ever decided to trade him, they would likely get a great return.

Which might make sense given that they have a promising young defensive core beyond Weber, with blueliners Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Seth Jones potentially leading the charge. A Weber trade would still make the Predators worse in the short-term, but if they’re not a great bet to make the playoffs in the near future anyways, is that really much of a sacrifice?

Which brings us to the main reason the Weber rumors aren’t dead: Nashville hasn’t been competitive lately. When a team struggles, their high-profile veteran players are exposed to the rumor mill. In Weber’s case, that has been amplified because it was initially suggested that part of the reason Weber signed with Philadelphia in the first place was that he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding effort.

Since then Weber has been upbeat about spending his career in Nashville and optimistic about the team’s future, but you have to wonder if his tone will change if the Predators’ moves this summer fail to produce results.

With that in mind, the next season or two could be of particular importance in defining Nashville’s future. Despite the financial burden and the possible return, Poile has indeed been building the Predators around Weber. Rumors aside, it would be surprising if Poile traded Weber unless the situation in Nashville got worse or Weber got tired of waiting for the Predators to get better.

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From the NHL:

Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.

Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.

Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse

Malkin to miss third straight game with lower-body injury

Evgeni Malkin
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Evgeni Malkin‘s “nagging” lower-body injury will keep him out at least one more game.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that the star center will sit out tonight at home against the Ducks. Malkin already missed two contests this weekend in Florida. His status is day-to-day.

The Penguins lost, 6-3, in Tampa on Friday, but rebounded Saturday with a 3-2 OT win over the Panthers.

Pittsburgh’s next game after tonight’s is Wednesday at home versus the Rangers.

McDonagh out with concussion after Saturday’s altercation with Simmonds

Ryan McDonagh
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The New York Rangers will be without Ryan McDonagh tonight at home to New Jersey, the club announcing this morning that the defenseman is out with a concussion.

McDonagh left Saturday’s game in Philadelphia following an altercation with the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds that ended with McDonagh taking a punch to the face from Simmonds.

Simmonds received a match penalty and was thrown out of the game, but did not receive any supplemental discipline.

Given the standings, the Rangers can ill afford to lose McDonagh for long. They play in Pittsburgh Wednesday, followed by three home games against Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

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Lucic’s plan is to ‘remain a King’ for remainder of career

Milan Lucic, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis
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Tuesday night, Milan Lucic will play his first game in Boston as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

It should be an emotional return for the big 27-year-old winger. In an interview with the L.A. Times, he recalled his time with his former club fondly, saying how great it was to be a “part of one of the best-ever eras to be a Bruin.”

A pending unrestricted free agent, Lucic also commented on his contract negotiations with the Kings.

“Nothing to get excited about,” he said. “There’s been two or three little talks here and there. My plan is to remain a King and hopefully finish off my career here. Like I said, I go day by day and you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.”

Lucic has 12 goals and 18 assists in 50 games this season. Though the Kings reportedly want to keep him, the question is whether they can find the cap space to make it happen.

Los Angeles already has Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Kyle Clifford, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Quick locked up long term. Plus, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will require new deals after next season.

Related: Why Lucic is an interesting pending UFA