Why it seems unlikely that the Nashville Predators would trade Shea Weber

Jonathan Willis
May 01 2013 08:55AM

It’s (an understandable) dream of Oilers fans to see Shea Weber traded to Edmonton. Not only is he from Western Canada, big, strong and capable, but he’d fill the #1 defenceman hole that Edmonton has had since Chris Pronger left town.

Those dreams seem destined to go unfulfilled.

Get Used To Disappointment

Why would Nashville trade one of the league’s precious few franchise defenders? The answer always seems to be “they’re a small market club and they can’t afford him.” By their actions, though, it seems clear that the Predators have decided they can’t afford not to pay him.

The Economics of a Trade

Shea Weber signed his current contract – via a Philadelphia Flyers offer sheet – on July 19, 2012, forcing the Predators to either match and hang on to Weber for at least a year, or decline to match and accept four first-round picks in exchange for Weber’s services. The Flyers made it as difficult as possible for Nashville by structuring the contract to be extremely front-loaded.

No NHL player made more money in 2012-13 than Weber. More than that, Weber’s contract is structured to be heavily bonus-intensive – featuring a $1 million base salary and a $13 million signing bonus for each of the first four years. The signing bonuses mean that by the time Weber could be traded by the Predators, they will have paid $27 million of the $110 million on his contract – just slightly under one-quarter of his total contract in the first year.

Facing a $110 million decision, one has to think the Predators weighed the cost. None of these ramifications were unknown at the time; the Predators knew what they were getting into matching that offer sheet. If it made sense to sign him then, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to change their mind and move him after having already taken the worst lumps.

Certainly that’s the message general manager David Poile has always emphasized – asked about the possibility of a trade by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman in April, he made no secret as to his view:

We have a franchise goaltender and the best defenceman in the NHL ... We are building our team around them.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: either the Predators made a terrible mistake, Poile’s being disingenuous, and the team plans to try and get a better return than four first round picks after spending $27 million for 48 games or they really have no plans to trade Weber. The latter seems more likely to be reality than the former. None of that means the Oilers shouldn't ask, but it does mean not much is likely to come of it. 

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.