Shea Weber

Fanspeak: Weber voted greatest Predator in franchise history

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This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Nashville Predators

1. Shea Weber — 555 votes

2. Pekka Rinne — 282 votes

3. David Legwand — 103 votes

It’s hard to argue Shea Weber winning the vote as the greatest Predators player in team history.

He doesn’t (currently) hold the team record for most games played, goals, or points but his role in establishing the defensive might of the Preds has been huge. Even still, his 131 goals and 347 points are good for third all-time in Predators history behind Legwand and Martin Erat.

Why yes, the Predators have only been around for 15 seasons – why do you bring that up?

Weber’s ferocious physical play and even more fearful slapshot have earned him league-wide fame. Players who have gone down to block his shots on the power play become virtual heroes for trying to stop a shot that’s been registered at over 100 miles per-hour on the reg.

It’s crazy to think Weber almost wasn’t a Predator. The infamous 14-year, $110 million monster offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers signed him to in 2012 as a restricted free agent pushed Nashville GM David Poile to make the financially difficult decision to match it. Player-wise, it was a no-brainer to retain the guy they made captain of the team and his consistent Norris Trophy-level play has proved that.

While Weber proves to be his ever-consistent self, it’s up to Poile and now Peter Laviolette to make it all pay off and bring Nashville a Stanley Cup. At the very least, they don’t have to sweat the blue line.

Poll: Will the Predators make the playoffs?

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The Nashville Predators were only three points shy of a playoff berth last season, which is pretty impressive when you consider that starting goaltender Pekka Rinne missed most of the campaign due to a hip injury.

The fact that he’s back and had all summer to prepare for his comeback campaign alone makes the Predators a significantly better team. On top of that, they arguably took a significant step forward offensively. Nashville added James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Olli Jokinen over the summer, which will give head coach Peter Laviolette some interesting players to work with as he tries to craft the Predators into a more offensively-minded squad.

Nashville also has one of the best blueliners in the game in Shea Weber and a maturing supporting cast of Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Victor Bartley, along with newcomer Anton Volchenkov. That’s not a bad group.

At the same time, Nashville would need to finish with a better record than at least one of the Central Division’s Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, and Dallas Stars. Considering that all of those teams are looking pretty formidable after strong offseasons, is it really realistic to think that the Predators are ready to surpass at least one of them while simultaneously staying ahead of the Winnipeg Jets?

It’s Nashville Predators Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Nashville Predators.

The Nashville Predators built their team around goaltender Pekka Rinne and when he went down with a hip injury, they weren’t able to recover.

That’s the abridged version of what happened anyways. A big part of the problem was the team’s lack of offensive firepower. They entered the 2013-14 campaign with the hope that free agent signing Viktor Stalberg would be able to serve as a top-six forward after having a supporting role with the deep Chicago Blackhawks and 19-year-old Filip Forsberg would enjoy a solid rookie campaign.

Stalberg couldn’t get anything going though and Forsberg needed some time to develop in the minors, which left the Predators with largely the same cast of forwards that tied the Florida Panthers for the worst offensively in the shortened 2013 campaign. Compared to that anemic showing, Nashville’s actually took a step forward offensively in 2013-14, but for the second straight campaign it was defenseman Shea Weber that led the team’s scoring race.

After Nashville failed the make the playoffs, head coach Barry Trotz was fired and thus a new era in the history of the Nashville Predators will begin.

Peter Laviolette was brought on to be the second bench boss in the franchise’s history. The hope is that he can make the Predators an exciting, up-tempo team.

Of course, he needs the tools in place to pull off a more offensive style and to that end the Predators acquired James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. The hope was that they could compliment him with a top-tier center, but when they were unable to pull off such a signing or trade, the Predators instead decided to gamble by inking Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Olli Jokinen.

Ribeiro in particular represents a significant risk given that the Arizona Coyotes bought him out over “behavioral issues,” but Predators GM David Poile insists he did his “due diligence.”

Adding to the Predators’ uncertainty up the middle is the fact that Mike Fisher ruptured his Achilles tendon last month. Even still, there’s at least a chance that Nashville’s bold moves over the summer will pay off.

The Predators still have a handful restricted free agents to deal with, including defenseman Ryan Ellis.

P.K. Subban vs. the NHL’s other big-money defensemen

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There were basically three types of responses to P.K. Subban’s mammoth eight-year, $72 million extension on Saturday:

1) Those spouting “That’s way too much money” while critiquing the player and/or the deal.

2) More than a few people who believe that Subban is worth every penny.

3) Those who praised other deals as huge bargains in hindsight. (Erik Karlsson’s name came up a lot there.)

The third consideration probably brings up the most interesting – and healthiest – discussions. By receiving that ransom at 25, Subban sets a new bar for blueliners in much the same way that forwards have a new ceiling to shoot for following dual $10.5 million marks for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Ignoring the many contextual factors that went into this deal as compared to the contracts owned by his elite peers – from a rising salary cap to a new CBA – how does Subban compare to other expensive blueliners? To start things off, let’s do things the simple way by glancing at Cap Geek’s most comparable contracts at his position in 2014-15:

Name Age Length Start Expiry Salary Cap Hit Cap Pct
Subban, P.K. » 25 8 2014 2022 $9,000,000 $9,000,000 13.04%
Weber, Shea » 28 14 2012 2026 $14,000,000 $7,857,143 11.19%
Suter, Ryan » 29 13 2012 2025 $11,000,000 $7,538,462 10.74%
Letang, Kris » 27 8 2014 2022 $7,250,000 $7,250,000 10.51%
Campbell, Brian » 35 8 2008 2016 $7,142,875 $7,142,875 12.60%
Doughty, Drew » 24 8 2011 2019 $7,000,000 $7,000,000 10.89%
Phaneuf, Dion » 29 7 2014 2021 $8,000,000 $7,000,000 10.14%
Chara, Zdeno » 37 7 2011 2018 $7,000,000 $6,916,667 10.76%
Karlsson, Erik » 24 7 2012 2019 $6,500,000 $6,500,000 9.26%
Pietrangelo, Alex » 24 7 2013 2020 $5,500,000 $6,500,000 10.11%
Green, Mike » 28 3 2012 2015 $6,250,000 $6,083,333 8.67%
Seabrook, Brent » 29 5 2011 2016 $5,000,000 $5,800,000 9.02%
Burns, Brent » 29 5 2012 2017 $5,760,000 $5,760,000 8.21%
Niskanen, Matt » 27 7 2014 2021 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 8.33%
Enstrom, Tobias » 29 5 2013 2018 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 8.94%
Markov, Andrei » 35 3 2014 2017 $7,000,000 $5,750,000 8.33%
Keith, Duncan » 31 13 2010 2023 $7,600,000 $5,538,462 9.32%
Myers, Tyler » 24 7 2012 2019 $5,000,000 $5,500,000 7.83%
Carle, Matt » 29 6 2012 2018 $5,750,000 $5,500,000 7.83%
E.-Larsson, O. » 23 6 2013 2019 $4,000,000 $5,500,000 8.55%
Wisniewski, James » 30 6 2011 2017 $5,000,000 $5,500,000 8.55%

Interesting stuff, huh?

Depending upon the person who’s framing an argument, Subban’s peers can fall more in line with Shea Weber – the most recent defenseman who experienced a bumpy ride in which arbitration was prominently involved – or someone like Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Any way you slice it, many of those deals really do look great with hindsight; one could imagine the cackles of Chicago Blackhawks fans who delight in Duncan Keith only taking up 9.32 percent of their cap or Victor Hedman’s ludicrous steal-of-a-deal at $4 million per season.

In all honesty, it’s not totally fair to Subban or the Canadiens to compare his deal with other blueliners who were in very different situations. If nothing else, the rest of the NHL should be very pleased that their blue-chip blueliners aren’t set to hit the market anytime soon, though.

Bargains and value discussions aside, where does Subban fit among the NHL’s elite? That’s a tricky question, especially since he’s received mixed treatment from those who deploy him.

Perception, reality and P.K.

As much as the numbers seem to indicate that Subban is the real deal – not just offensive numbers, but the whole picture – there’s the (probably unfair) impression that he needs to improve greatly in his own end.

Consider the fact that he was often used lightly by Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock during the 2014 Olympics. Without getting into speculation about his relationship with Habs bench boss Michel Therrien, Subban didn’t carry the toughest workload in 2013-14:

If you judge a player based on the opinions of the decision-makers, Subban falls behind some of the best of the best.

Here’s the thing, though: his numbers are pretty sterling in just about any situation, making an argument that he can handle the burden of huge expectations. Subban generated 165 points since his first full season in the NHL back in 2010-11, ranking him seventh among defensemen. The numbers only get better if you restrict them to more recent seasons. He doesn’t get enough credit for his overall work, either.

Here’s a look at how he compares to some of the league’s best via Extra Skater’s handy “compare” tools:

Player GP G P CF% CF% rel PDO ZS% ZS% rel EVTOI% PPTOI% SHTOI% QoC TOI% QoT TOI%
P.K. Subban 82 10 53 49.90% 0.051 99.8 47.40% 0.038 39.00% 80.30% 11.20% 28.80% 27.90%
Erik Karlsson 82 20 74 54.80% 0.043 99.1 55.00% 0.076 43.20% 76.00% 24.00% 29.00% 27.80%
Brian Campbell 82 7 37 52.70% 0.03 99 49.90% 0.009 42.20% 66.20% 37.50% 28.80% 27.20%
Drew Doughty 78 10 37 58.50% 0.029 100.8 54.10% -0.90% 38.90% 64.20% 42.20% 29.00% 26.90%
Alex Pietrangelo 81 8 51 54.90% 0.029 101.7 52.30% -0.50% 38.50% 50.70% 55.70% 29.50% 29.50%
Duncan Keith 79 6 61 56.60% 0.02 100.4 57.30% 0.027 37.20% 61.30% 48.40% 28.90% 28.50%
Zdeno Chara 77 17 40 55.20% 0.018 101.3 48.30% -9.10% 37.00% 55.20% 58.10% 29.90% 27.70%
Ryan Suter 82 8 43 48.60% -0.40% 102.2 54.20% 0.098 45.60% 71.50% 44.90% 29.30% 29.10%
Shea Weber 79 23 56 48.00% -0.70% 100.1 44.60% -6.60% 41.00% 63.10% 54.10% 29.60% 29.10%
Kris Letang 37 11 22 48.80% -1.50% 97.3 53.10% 0.039 36.30% 71.70% 41.00% 28.90% 28.00%
Oliver Ekman-Larsson 80 15 44 49.20% -1.80% 100.5 48.40% -4.60% 37.10% 74.40% 54.00% 29.80% 27.60%
Dion Phaneuf 80 8 31 40.80% -2.80% 103.1 37.20% -4.90% 34.10% 62.50% 52.40% 30.10% 29.10%

(Note: it’s OK if your eyes are glazing over at some of those categories.)

To generalize, Subban stacks up nicely in most regards … although his lack of PK work (pause for giggles) is indeed glaring.

With that in mind, the most interesting question might shift from “Where does Subban rank?” to “Will Therrien use his best defenseman in a way that gives his team the best chance to succeed?” Whatever happens, it won’t be easy for Subban to live up to these expectations, yet the Canadiens could very well be happy that they made this huge investment … if they play their cards right.

Agent: Subban hasn’t told me to make him NHL’s highest-paid D

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Earlier today, a report surfaced claiming P.K. Subban was seeking $8.5 million annually in arbitration. While that figure would make him the NHL’s highest-paid defenseman, agent Don Meehan said that’s not the goal.

Here’s what Meehan told Sportsnet’s Fan 590 on Wednesday:

Sportsnet: Is it important to you and P.K. that by average annual value, he becomes the highest-paid defenseman in the National Hockey League?

Meehan: Really, we haven’t approached it in that respect. That’s not something that he’s instructed us to attend to. When you get down to an arbitration process, it really becomes in many respects a statistical analysis, and it can be different from a negotiation you’re having with a club. They’re really two different venues.

But he’s a remarkable player, and he has a remarkable presence in Montreal. I think Montreal acknowledges that, and I think we’re all trying to do our best to see if we can come up with something that makes sense from both sides’ points of view.

Currently, the NHL’s highest-paid blueliner in terms of average annual value is Nashville’s Shea Weber, who pulls in $7.8 million annually. He’s trailed by Ryan Suter ($7.5M), Kris Letang ($7.2M), Brian Campbell ($7.1M), Drew Doughty and Dion Phaneuf ($7M each).

So, as you can see, Subban would be the first to eclipse the $8M barrier — an important figure, given there’s already pretty select company in the $7-plus million group.

As for the state of negotiations… Meehan did say he felt there was plenty of time for Subban and the Habs to reach an agreement prior to Friday’s arbitration hearing, noting that 21 of this summer’s 23 scheduled cases were sewn up prior to. (Meehan added the two sides were likely to meet on Thursday.)

It’s also worth noting the 25-year-old defenseman has said he wants to be a “lifer” in Montreal, and GM Marc Bergevin did clear up some cap space this summer by trading Josh Gorges — and his $3.9M cap hit through 2018 — to Buffalo, without bringing back any salary in exchange.