Predators open vault for Weber

Predators defenceman Shea Weber hits Canucks forward Chris Higgins at Rogers Arena in Vancouver,...

Predators defenceman Shea Weber hits Canucks forward Chris Higgins at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., May 07, 2011. (RICH LAM/Getty Images/AFP)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:36 AM ET

TORONTO - For this kind of money, the Predators should re-christen Bridgestone Arena as Shea Stadium.

But the reality is that paying Shea Weber $7.5 million US, the NHL’s largest ever arbitration award, largest team cap hit this year and highest one-year deal for the frugal Nashville franchise, might not be enough to keep the star defenceman beyond 2013.

That’s when Nashville’s claim on Weber would end, in the absence of a long-term deal. As several observers have pointed out, Weber is likely to have a long memory about being taken to arbitration by his bosses in the first place.

To no one’s surprise, the arbitrator on Wednesday sided far closer to Weber and his agents’ submission of $8.5 million than the club’s low-ball $4.75 million. It was a figure the team thought it had to submit to avoid getting completely crushed financially in the ruling. General manager David Poile was quick to make nice afterwards on a conference call with Weber, saying it was all business and congratulating him on the win.

But again, this could have been handled a lot differently in the past few months. Poile chose arbitration in case any team tried to woo Weber with an offer sheet, though no multi-year deal could be put together.

“We talked one year to longer, but couldn’t agree on terms, length or structure,” Poile said. “Obviously that’s a little disappointing. That could be viewed as a failure, or maybe as an opportunity. I’m optimistic we can get a long-term deal.

“What’s done is done. It’s up to me and our staff to surround Shea with core players. I’m well aware we need a couple of forwards to take us to a level we need to be to compete for the Cup.”

But now that he’s paid big-time for Weber, others will expect the same consideration. Next summer, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and defenceman Ryan Suter will be unrestricted free agents and should the Preds stumble or go sideways after modest playoff success, neither would be keen on staying if they thought captain Weber was looking to exit. Forwards Martin Erat and David Legwand, both at $4.5 million, are currently Nashville’s highest-paid players.

“It will be interesting to see what (Rinne and Suter) do, but hopefully we get on the same page and get to play together for a long time,” Weber said. “I think we’re right there. (Management) will do what they can to fill in the pieces.”

Sharp on 'Hawks

This time last summer, the Chicago Blackhawks were losing some valuable pieces of their championship team to the perils of the salary cap.

On Wednesday, they had the space to lock up a forward who is key to their contending hopes when Patrick Sharp was signed to a five-year extension. The club’s leading scorer with 34 goals last season, he’ll get $29.5 million in all, a cap hit of $5.9 million.

Sharp has 150 goals as a 'Hawk since arriving from Philadelphia during the 2005-06 season and was the MVP of the 2011 all-star game.

Island of debt

One of the reasons voters rejected a $400 million loan for the Islanders’ new arena was they didn’t like the prospect of getting paid back when the team has the NHL’s worst average attendance of 11,509. There was also the question of how much extra in taxes would be required per year. Estimates ranged from less than $20 per single family homeowner in the opinion of Isles’ owner Charles Wang, but could have gone as high as $58 according to Nassau County’s financial watchdog.

At any rate, it’s likely the team and its few allies in local government will now throw the bidding process open to any interested developers to fix up the decaying Coliseum before the lease expires in a few years.

Talking to Luke

Luke Schenn and the Leafs are talking contract this week as scheduled. The restricted free agent is the last big contract project for Brian Burke, though assistant GM Claude Loiselle, the team’s CBA expert, is handling the negotiations at this stage.

Ice chips

Wonder how much Latvian culture Ted Nolan can digest in just a few weeks? The one-time Jack Adams winner in the NHL will be heading up Latvia’s national team after a surprise call from its hockey federation ... Defenceman Colin White, bought out by the New Jersey Devils after a decade of service, has moved across the continent to the San Jose Sharks and a one-year deal for $1 million ... Ex-Leaf Kevyn Adams has been promoted to assistant coach by the Buffalo Sabres ... Cory Clouston, replaced as head coach of the Ottawa Senators by Paul MacLean, will take over behind the bench of the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings ... St. Louis Blues’ David Perron, who was concussed last season on a hit by San Jose’s Joe Thornton, is not yet well enough to resume training and is likely going to miss the start of training camp says GM Doug Armstrong ... The Washington Post reports Alex Ovechkin has dropped CCM equipment and Reebok shoes as his endorsements. As the paper pointed out, no more commercials of a disembodied Ovie laughing maniacally in a high school locker. Ovechkin, coming off a disappointing 32-goal season, is going to start hawking Mr. Big chocolate bars in Canada.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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