A smile framed with melancholy crossed Yannick Weber's face when he tried to separate the accomplishment of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, but falling short of a championship.
"It still stings," Weber said from the team's weight room of Bridgestone Arena on locker clean-out day. "It's only been a couple days, and I think in a little while you'll appreciate what you've done. If you play in the Final and you feel like you outplayed the other team for the most part of the series, and you just didn't feel like you could lose at any point, it's definitely tough to swallow."
The Predators defenseman did learn shortly after the Game Six loss to the Penguins that he would been given another shot with the same club that became the League's first 16th seed to ever reach the Final. The 28-year-old Swiss blueliner signed a one-year contract to return for the 2017-18 season on Tuesday - an announcement that came on the afternoon of Weber's final day inside Bridgestone Arena before the offseason begins.
Weber formed a dynamic third pairing along with Matt Irwin that supported the Predators' top-four defense in their run through the Western Conference. With Irwin, who also entered the 2016-17 season on a one-year deal re-signed in January, Nashville is scheduled to enter the 2017-18 campaign with eight of their top nine defenseman intact.
"As far as I know, not much is going to change with the team we have... Now everybody knows what it takes, how hard it is to actually get there," Weber said. "There was never a doubt [I wanted to re-sign here]. They gave me a chance to be here this year. It was a very fun year, the organization put a lot of trust in me, the coaches gave me a lot of trust. Just being a part of this whole journey and run we had, I always wanted to come back. Being able to come back is definitely great, and I'm looking forward to next year."
Video: Weber talks about re-signing with the Preds
When pressed to try and forecast the future, Weber listed the Predators' youthful, yet skilled roster as the most influential reason Nashville could make a return trip to the Final in 2018.
"I don't think there's any need to change a lot, if you look at what we did," Weber said. "We're still very young. If you look at the top guys, [Ryan] Johansen, Filip [Forsberg], [Viktor Arvidsson] and even Roman [Josi] and [Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban], they're still kind of young, if you think about it. It's the first time they had that experience. And I know at the start of this year, people talked about us being a favorite. That just showed we had the right pieces together, but we still had to put the work in, and I think that's what we did.
"We created a certain kind of culture during this year and hopefully we can take that into next season. We know it's going to be another long journey. We knew how much work we had to put in this year and into our structure, and our system and into ourselves as a team to have success. We know how hard it is now. We'll take that and appreciate being in this group and we'll definitely be ready for whatever hits us next year."