It certainly didn’t take long following Nashville’s elimination from the playoffs for Shea Weber and Nashville GM David Poile to address the defenseman’s contract status.
Weber is a restricted free agent this summer in line for a substantial raise above the $4.5 million he made this season, leading to speculation he’ll either opt for a one-year extension that would make him eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, sign an offer sheet from a rival club on July 1, or make salary demands that would push management to trade him.
As Weber and his teammates packed up for the off-season, however, he and Poile expressed mutual confidence a new deal will be reached before July 1.
“Obviously, this is a place I love to play and you saw how close we were this year to getting to the conference finals and possibly further,” Weber told Josh Cooper of The Tennessean. “This is a place I want to be and it’s going to be a matter of time before something gets done.”
Poile said he’d meet with Weber’s representatives within the next couple of weeks to begin negotiations.
“Will we be able to re-sign Shea Weber? The answer is yes,” Poile said.
Re-signing their captain and star defenseman will be expensive. Cooper pointed out Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf, who was drafted the same year as Weber (2003), has a six-year, $39 million contract, but isn’t close to Weber’s caliber.
Cooper suggested the five-year, $29 million deal Brent Seabrook – also part of the 2003 class – recently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks would be “a good starting point” for negotiations.
Cooper also noted Weber’s comments about the Predators needing to bolster their offense and suggested Poile will need to bring in more scoring “to appease” his captain.
One possibility is Alexander Radulov, who has spent the past three seasons playing in Russia’s Kontinental League.
Radulov is currently under contract with Salavat Yulayev Ufa for three more seasons, but his agent, Jay Grossman, claimed his client could get out of his KHL contract if he wanted to. It remains to be seen if Radulov, who’s been a dominant player in the KHL, wants to return to the Predators.
Poile has previously said if Radulov returned to the Predators he would have to play out the final season of his entry-level contract, which pays him considerably less than the millions he has earned in Russia. It was Poile’s unwillingness to re-sign Radulov prior to the final season of his entry-level deal that led the winger to bolt to Russia.
Another Predators RFA keen to return is right winger Sergei Kostitsyn, who was slow to adjust to the team’s defensive system after joining the club in a trade last summer with Montreal, but still finished with a career-best 23 goals and 50 points in 77 games.
Kostitsyn was quick to shoot down talk of returning to Montreal if the Canadiens sent him an offer sheet, saying he wants to stay in Nashville.
Despite his offensive inconsistency in the playoffs, Kostitsyn was the Predators’ regular season scoring leader and re-signing him to an affordable new contract – perhaps worth $1.5 million per season – shouldn’t prove difficult.
YEMELIN SIGNING WOULD HAVE DOMINO EFFECT IN MONTREAL
It appears the Montreal Canadiens are on the verge of finally signing Russian defenseman Alexei Yemelin to an NHL contract.
Yemelin, 25, was a 2004 draft pick of the Canadiens’, but he’s spent his young career playing in Russia. If the Habs succeed in signing him, it would be to an affordable base salary of $984,200, although bonuses could push that final total to $3 million or more.
CTV.ca’s Arpon Basu suggested Yemelin’s signing would likely mean veteran Canadiens blueliner and pending UFA Andrei Markov would be re-signed. Both are represented by agent Don Meehan and the Canadiens would want Markov around to assist Yemelin in his transition to the NHL game.
It may also mean unrestricted free agents Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski will not be re-signed. The Canadiens would have Markov, Yemelin, P.K. Subban and Jaroslav Spacek under contract and are expected to re-sign UFA Hal Gill and RFAs Josh Gorges and Yannick Weber.
COYOTES CLAMOR FOR CASH
The Phoenix Coyotes are staying in Glendale for at least one more season, but that doesn’t alleviate their payroll issues.
Until the club finally has a new owner in place, GM Don Maloney will operate under a payroll provided by the league for the third straight season, meaning he will likely again have to be close to the league’s cap minimum, making it difficult to re-sign key free agents such as Ilya Bryzgalov and Keith Yandle.
Capgeek.com reports the Coyotes currently have more than $29.7 invested in 13 players for next season and if, as expected, the league’s salary floor is around $46 million, that would give them more than $16 million in available space.
The problem is that re-signing Bryzgalov and Yandle alone would potentially eat up more than $10 million of that available space, giving them precious little cash to re-sign key youngsters such as Kyle Turris or Mikkel Boedker, let alone veterans Eric Belanger and Radim Vrbata. Efforts to bolster their depth via this summer’s free agent market will also be severely hindered.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.