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.