An arbitrator awarded Nashville defenceman Shea Weber a record $7.5 million US for next season on Wednesday.
Weber and the Predators made presentations to an arbitrator Tuesday in Toronto. Weber, through his Titan Sports representation, reportedly asked for $8.5 million, while the team put forth a case for $4.75 million, a minimal increase from last season.
On a media conference call Wednesday, both sides rejected the notion that the arbitration process, which can be contentious, would irrevocably harm the relationship between captain and team.
Nashville general manager David Poile said he congratulated Weber on the award.
"Today's award is certainly reflective of his value to the Predators and his worth in the National Hockey League," Poile said.
"My vision hopefully in the near future, is with Shea raising the Stanley Cup in a Predators uniform," Poile added.
The previous record for an arbitrator's award was $7 million, to John LeClair of Philadelphia in 2000 and Scott Niedermayer of New Jersey in 2004.
The Predators filed for arbitration in mid-June with Weber in order to prevent other clubs from making an offer sheet and in an unsuccessful attempt to buy themselves several weeks before the scheduled hearing to hammer out a long-term deal with their team captain.
Poile said the two sides couldn't come to an agreement to the length and structure of a contract.
Weber, who turns 26 later this month, was a Norris Trophy finalist the past season. The Sicamous, B.C., native had 16 goals and a career-high 32 assists while appearing in all 82 games.
He averaged $4.5 million per year during the term of his last deal.
"It's nice to get this arbitration process out of the way here for now and hopefully this can lead to further negotiations between my agents and the Predators, and hopefully we can something done long term," Weber said.
Weber said he feels the Predators are close to contending for a Stanley Cup. One of the youngest teams in the NHL, Nashville won its first ever playoff series this spring and fell to Vancouver in the Western Conference semifinals.
It was the first arbitration session of the summer in the NHL, with other clubs able to avoid the often contentious hearings hours before they were scheduled. New Jersey signed Zach Parise to a $6 million deal last week in such an instance.
It was one of the few times since the current system of arbitration was set up in the mid-1990s that a team-initiated filing ended up going all the way to an arbitrator.
As it stands currently — which could change, given that the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires in 2012 — Weber next summer will again be a restricted free agent,
Because it was team initiated, the Predators must accept the ruling and they will not be able to initiate an arbitration filing for Weber next year.
Titan Sports, exercising its rights, opted for a one-year instead of a two-year ruling for its client.
Poile and assistant Paul Fentonn will several decisions to make in the next several months. Star goalie Pekka Rinne, shutdown defenceman Ryan Suter are unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2012.
"If I had my utopia you'd like to deal with everybody together but I don't think it quite works like that," Poile said.
The GM said he will get a better sense of his team, and where his players are coming from, at training camp in September.
Top defencemen by cap hit & salary
With figures according to Capgeek.com, the following two lists represent the top 10 defenceman in terms of 2011-12 cap hit, and in terms of how much actual salary they will be paid next season.
As you can see, the two lists are not the same. All figures are in millions.
|Shea Weber||Nashville||$7.5 (1)||$7.5 (5)|
|Brian Campbell||Chicago||7.1 (2)||7.1 (6)|
|Zdeno Chara||Boston||6.9 (3)||8.5 (2)|
|Jay Bouwmeester||Calgary||6.7 (4)|
|Dan Boyle||San Jose||6.7 (4)||6.7 (10)|
|Dion Phaneuf||Toronto||6.5 (6)|
|Wade Redden||Rangers/AHL||6.5 (7)|
|Kimmo Timmonen||Philadelphia||6.3 (8)|
|Nicklas Lidstrom||Detroit||6.2 (9)|
|Brent Seabrook||Chicago||5.8 (10)||7 (7)|
|Christian Ehrhoff||Islanders||10 (1)|
|Duncan Keith||Chicago||8 (3)|
|Chris Pronger||Philadelphia||7.6 (4)|
|Kevin Bieksa||Vancouver||7 (7)|
|James Wisniewski||Columbus||7 (7)|