Is it possible that Shea Weber
and the Nashville Predators held the NHL's other restricted free agent defensemen hostage this summer?
We'll find out soon because with the one-year, $7.5 million contract awarded to Weber through arbitration now official, Los Angeles' Drew Doughty, Toronto's Luke Schenn and Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian all could fall in line with new contracts in the coming days or weeks.
Now, Weber isn't exactly the ideal comparable to any of the aforementioned blueliners for several reasons: He's 26 years old; he's played five full seasons in the NHL; he had his case settled through arbitration; he is on his third NHL contract. Doughty, Schenn and Bogosian are each 21 and coming off their three-year entry-level contracts.
A better comparison, especially for Doughty, could be Dion Phaneuf or perhaps Mike Green. Phaneuf's second NHL contract was for six years and $39 million ($6.5 million average annual value) while Green's second contract was for four years and $21 million ($5.25 million AAV).
However, judging by performance over the past two seasons, Doughty is not all that far off from Weber's current value.
Like Weber, Doughty has already been a finalist for the Norris Trophy and, as the No. 1 defenseman, led his team to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Doughty and Weber were also teammates on the gold medal-winning Canadian Olympic team last year.
Doughty and Weber have comparable statistics over the last two seasons, with Doughty putting up 99 points in 158 games and Weber 91 points in 160 games.
Weber, though, has played in 402 NHL games while Doughty has played in 239 since making his debut in 2008, months after the Kings made him the No. 2 pick in the Entry Draft. Doughty also has never been to the second round of the playoffs while Weber helped the Predators get there this past season for the first time in franchise history.
If Doughty's contract is the next domino to fall, it could help set the market for Schenn and Bogosian -- even though Doughty will likely command more money than Schenn and Bogosian because he's had a more productive start to his career.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi told NHL.com's E.J. Hradek last week that he has been in contract discussions with Doughty's representatives from Newport Sports Management, which also represents Schenn. Lombardi expressed his confidence that a deal would get done, but he could not specify a timetable.
While the Kings want to lock up Doughty for the better part of the next decade, if not longer, it's possible he's looking for a shorter-term deal due to the expiring CBA and the fact that his prime years are still ahead of him.
The National Post reported Wednesday that the Maple Leafs are currently in negotiations on a new contract with Schenn, the fifth pick in the 2008 draft, but there is no rush seeing that it's still only early August.
What the deal means for Nashville -- Weber's one-year award not only has an immediate impact on the Predators' salary cap and internal budget, but with it comes speculation as to whether GM David Poile will be able to keep Weber, fellow defenseman Ryan Suter
and goalie Pekka Rinne
under contract beyond next season.
Rinne and Suter are both entering the final years of their current contracts and can become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2012. Weber can only be a restricted free agent again next summer, but if he remains unsigned on July 1 he would be open to fielding and perhaps signing offer sheets from another club.
Nashville avoided that dilemma this summer by taking Weber to club-elected arbitration, meaning he couldn't negotiate with another club but the Predators would also have to accept the arbitration award. A player can be taken to club-elected arbitration only once in his career, but Weber would have the option of taking the Predators to player-elected arbitration next summer.
If it came to that, he would ask for a one-year contract that would take him to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2013.
Poile will try to convince Weber to sign a long-term extension during the season. If he can't, he might have to choose between bringing Weber back on another one-year contract or signing both Suter and Rinne to what could be long-term contracts.
Does that mean Weber could potentially become trade bait at some point before he signs another contract? It's not out of the realm of possibility, but Poile and the Predators will do what they can to avoid losing their captain.Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer