In Suter’s Wake, the Canucks Acquiring Shea Weber Remains a Farfetched Pipe Dream

Dan Hamhuis is pretty much the least sexy player in the entire NHL. He has an under-stated two-way game, and he puts up points, but he does so as quietly as a mouse on Christmas Eve. Still, he gives your average Canucks fan a raging hard sea-to-sky boner.

Quebec has their goaltenders, Ontario produces elite forwards seemingly off of an assembly line, and while the West may not be an "enforcer factory," British Columbia does have a nice history or producing elite NHL defenseman.

Scott Niedermayer is actually from Alberta, but British Columbian hockey fans are convinced he’s a "BC boy." Counting him, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Shea Weber – you have more than half of Canada’s 2010 Gold Medal winning Olympic blueline hailing from the country’s westernmost Province. 

For hockey fans from the west coast, there’s a pride and a mystique that surrounds the "BC-born defenseman." Over the last decade that mystique has co-mingled with a sense of frustration and resentment borne out of the fact that a truly elite 1A d-man has never played for the Canucks franchise.

"We produce so many great defenseman in our own backyard, why can’t we get them on the team I root for?" Asks Joe Canucksfan from Vernon, British Columbia – speaking for the whole damn Province. As a result of this popular notion, even relatively unproven commodities like West Kelowna’s Justin Schultz, or White Rock’s Jason Garrison will drive Canucks fans into paroxysms of hysteria. So, imagine how Vancouver’s hockey fans react to the notion of Shea Weber – arguably the most dominant single defenseman in the league – wearing the blue, green and white?

On Wednesday, the Predators lost Ryan Suter, a blue-chip defenseman in his own right, to unrestricted free-agency and the Minnesota Wild. They’d kept Suter on the team past the trade-deadline, and they didn’t trade his rights at the draft, all in a desperate effort to re-sign Shea Weber’s long-time defensive partner. Now, Predators General Manager David Poile is left at the altar, down one elite defenseman, paying a goaltender 7 million dollars for the long-term, and uncertain about the future of captain, and franchise cornerstone Shea Weber, who is reportedly distraught about Suter’s departure.

Does Suter’s departure open the door for the Canucks to take a serious run at Shea Weber? Maybe, but do the Canucks really have the assets to make a deal happen? Should they try a predatory offer-sheet? It’s a tantalizing mixture to think about, but the prospect of Shea Weber in a Canucks uniform remains an extremely farfetched pipe dream. Let’s get into why.

A Lesson Learned?

The first relevant question that we have to ask is, will Predators General Manager David Poile – who gambled, and was burned pretty badly by Suter’s departure – risk losing a piece like Shea Weber for nothing? Or will he be more proactive this time around?

Based on Wednesday’s comments to Joshua Cooper of the Tennessean, Poile sounds like a man with a directive: "do everything you can to re-sign the face of this franchise." Here’s his quote:

“Our attention turns to our captain Shea Weber and the player we want to build our franchise around and see if we can talk to he and his representative about a longer term contract with the Predators."

Shea Weber is a restricted free-agent again this summer, he was an RFA last summer as well, and was awarded 7.5 million at team elected arbitration.

For the most part, it has seemed as if Weber has been in a holding pattern regarding his current team – waiting and watching to see if the small market Predators, a model franchise for most of their existence, could demonstrate the wherewithal to transform their ragtag group into a serious contender. One has to think that the departure of his long-time partner, and friend Ryan Suter damages Nashville’s chances at retaining one of the best defenseman in the game.

If Nashville General Manager David Poile decides to move Shea Weber this summer, correcting the mistakes he made by allowing Hamhuis and Suter to walk for nothing, what would he be looking for in return? A massive package, is the obvious answer. You’d have to think the asking price in a prospective Shea Weber trade would have to include a couple of roster players, at least one elite prospect, and several first round draft picks. There would be many, upwards of twenty probably, teams lining up to make their best possible offer, and that will drive up the price even further.

Do the Canucks have the assets to make a competitive offer? Maybe. Start the bidding at Alex Edler (or Keith Ballard, if Nashville would prefer a defenseman with term remaining on their deal), Chris Tanev, either Jannik Hansen or Zack Kassian, Nicklas Jensen and a couple of first round picks. Even so, that offer would pale in comparison with what the likes of Edmonton (a package based around either Jordan Eberle or Taylor Hall), Philadelphia (Coutourier, Read, Coburn) or New York (McDonnaugh, Del Zotto, Kreider, Dubinsky) could offer. In short, if Poile decides to move Shea Weber this summer, the Canucks are probably not  going to be in a position to make a competitive offer.

That is unless Mike Gillis manages to absolutely hose Dale Tallon or Brian Burke on a potential Luongo deal, but it’s tough to see that happening…

Nashville’s Quiet Leverage

With the current CBA expiring this September, it’s possible that many of the things that come with it – most importantly the current number of "years accrued" before a player hits unrestricted free-agency (7), or the ability teams have to offer players "life-time contracts" – could come to an end. Quietly, that uncertainty is Nashville’s best bargaining chip. 

Shea Weber could be leaving millions, and I don’t mean several millions, I mean upwards of fifty million dollars (US) on the table should he go past September 15th without a long-term deal in place.

Consider the possibilities. Say Shea Weber signed a long-term deal this season, let’s go with 13 years at an average cap-hit of 9 million (not a stretch), that would be worth 117 million dollars over the duration of the deal. If term is capped at six years in the new CBA (which, many expect it will be) and Weber signs a deal worth 11 million per season – he’s just lost 51 million dollars! That’s a fair bit of coin.

If Shea Weber tries to force his way out of Nashville this summer, Poile’s best play is to refuse to budge. After all, that refusal could well prove to be a disaster for Shea Weber’s bank account. Every day between now and September 15th that Shea Weber doesn’t ink a long-term deal, he incurs a sizable opportunity cost and that fact strengthens Poile’s footing.

The Dream of a Predatory Offer Sheet

What we discussed above regarding Nashville’s quiet leverage, also explains in part why a one year offer sheet to Shea Weber doesn’t make any sense. Put simply, I can’t fathom why he’d ever sign it.

The benefit of signing Shea Weber to a one year offer sheet for a team like the Canucks – who don’t have the assets to make a competitive trade offer for Nashville’s dominant blue-liner – is that if Nashville matches, they can’t trade him for twelve months. Essentially, if the Predators don’t match you get Shea Weber, which is awesome, and if they do then at least you’re ensuring that the Predators lose Weber for nothing, and that you’ll be able to take your best shot at him on July 1st, 2013.

But signing a one year offer sheet doesn’t make sense for Weber. If Weber’s sole priority was maximizing his payday, then he’d already be working on signing a long-term deal with Nashville this summer. If his priority was that he wanted out of Nashville at any cost, then maybe he’d sign a one year offer-sheet – but that seems like an extraordinarily unlikely scenario.

More likely, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. My hypothesis is that Weber doesn’t "want out of Nashville" so much as he’s unconvinced that they can support a juggernaut contender and at least wants to keep his options open, but he also wants to get paid. So it’s a priority balancing act – you want to make money, and you want to be somewhere where you have a chance to win multiple Stanley Cups. If this is the case, then Weber’s best bet is to drag his feet on signing any deal with the Predators, do what he can to force a trade before September 15th, then sign long-term with the team that trades for him. Signing a one year offer sheet would severely limit Weber’s options, which, is why I think it’s a fairy tale scenario.

While Poile is between a rock and a hard place at the moment, the nature of restricted free-agency and the particular restraints placed upon Shea Weber’s camp by the current atmosphere of uncertainty, means that the Predators embattled General Manager is still driving this bus. It’ll be fascinating to see how Poile, Weber, and 20+ NHL teams interested in trading for the defenseman play their cards over the coming months – but whatever happens, it seems structurally probable that the Canucks will be on the outside looking in… 

  • Mantastic

    “Consider the possibilities. Say Shea Weber signed a long-term deal this season, let’s go with 13 years at an average cap-hit of 9 million (not a stretch), that would be worth 117 million dollars over the duration of the deal. If term is capped at six years in the new CBA (which, many expect it will be) and Weber signs a deal worth 11 million per season – he’s just lost 51 million dollars! That’s a fair bit of coin.”

    He hasn’t lost that money, though, not certainly. He’s lost the guarantee of it, but it’s not like his earning potential stops after that 6 year deal is over.

    You could also say Weber might be reluctant to sign a long term deal in case the union agrees to a rollback again this time.

  • KleptoKlown

    As for a one year offer sheet, I think it makes less sense to the acquiring team than to Weber.

    Why would you risk 4 1sts and paying Weber 10 mil, only to see him walk away in a year?

  • NuckfiSh

    “Do the Canucks have the assets to make a competitive offer? Maybe. Start the bidding at Alex Edler”

    I think Edler’s a great place to start if your Poile. Why not build around a polished swede who does everything well and won’t break the bank. I don’t see anything wrong with that for either side… *also, Edler’s only 26 and still on the up & up.

  • puck-bandit

    good article Drance. Hopefully it will calm down some of the people who think Shea Weber coming here is inevitable.

    The “but he’s from BC, so obviously he’ll sign with the canucks” mentality is hilarious.

  • KleptoKlown

    Sometimes dreams come true. 30 teams want Weber, and he could very easily end up the highest paid player in the game. He’ll end up playing where he wants, and as a Nuck fan, I can only hope it us…and not Edmonton or Calgary!

  • puck-bandit

    Good read, 1st time today I got to laugh at something, after giving my staff grief all day.

    Shea Weber is a great player, that we can all agree on. Is he coming to Vancouver? That would be the day Mike Gillis calls me up and wants to buy me lunch; it a-r-n-t happening.

    Someone just wrote their proverbial wish list of players in TSN about the players we can ship out to make the big deal for our Nuck’s. Edler, Ballard, and David Booth for Shea, that was the second time I laughed today.

    It is only my opinion, and I have many, that if I had a choice I would not even consider him, period. I run a tight budget business, not the scale of the Nuck’s, but I know how you have to get the best you can with what you got, and you have to look at tomorrow just in case something breaks, like a player maybe? I would be choked if the Nuck’s spent 9 or 10 mil a year on a player for 10 yrs or more, sorry Lou.
    It’s a great wish list player, but Shea Weber is just not worth the money. And how do you explain that to our dedicated, take the home discount players? Geeze; we could almost get another set of twins for that kind of dough, or 2 Dan Hammers.
    I really dislike the off season, just because we all get a little nutty, cranky, and don’t play well with each other because there is no game tonight.

    Keep writing, Luv your articles.

  • puck-bandit

    The Brett Hull comparison is not quite the same, but I agree. Having grown up in Cranbrook, seeing their names on the banner and trophies in the arenas, not to mention seeing Rob and Scott bringing the Cup home, I find it insane for someone to suggest that just because he was born in another hospital, that Scott isn’t a BC boy.

  • puck-bandit

    Duncan Keith counts as a BC boy when he was born in Manitoba, grew up in Ontario and moved here at 16? Edler came here at age 19 … does he count as BC boy yet? I think he’s spent more of his life here than Keith.

  • I’m glad you think he is a BC boy, but I still don’t get how you think he is from Alberta. My parents (who live in Cranbrook) know his parents. He has brought 4 Stanley Cups home to Cranbrook. I used to admire how many times his name was on the old minor hockey trophies in our old barn of an arena.

    I actually think your arguments about Weber are great, but your introduction about BC defencemen needs clarification. The Niedermayer boys are without a doubt the pride of Cranbrook, British Columbia, regardless of what Wikipedia says about his birthplace.