a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Sunday, 22 July 2012

07/22/12 Weber's Offer Sheet Could Be Good For the Oilers

At first glance it seems that Shea Weber's $110 million offer sheet will limit the speculation about where he will end up to just two teams. But if the Predators match the offer, as the Tennessean reported that they will, there's a chance that he still ends up elsewhere.

First, let's have a look at the financial situation in Nashville. As a smaller market team, the Predators work from their own internal budget that is independent of the salary cap. Below are estimates from CapGeek of what Nashville has spent on players since 2008-09:

2008-09: $49,155,300*
2009-10: $44,177,432
2010-11: $50,903,696
2011-12: $52,188,068
* total spent on salaries minus bonuses, and not cap hits

It's an average of $49,106,124 over a four year stretch. The upper limit for spending in Nashville is probably around $55 million, which is well short of the $70.2 million salary cap ceiling. That's how the team has managed to survive and even to thrive in a non-traditional hockey market.

As of this writing the Preds will be spending $36,285,000 on the salaries of 18 players for the 2012-13 season, plus an additional $1.8 million for the buyouts of Brett Lebda and J.P. Dumont. They also have $885,000 in bonus money to potentially pay out. That's $38,970,000 in expenditure, which leaves the team with somewhere in the neighborhood of $16 million to spend and a few more players to add.

RFA Sergei Kostitsyn filed for arbitration and will be looking for a raise from the $2.5 million he made in 2011-12. Assuming a $3 million deal, Nashville would be just $13 million away from a $55 million internal budget. Jonathan Blum is also an RFA in need of a new deal; one which will leave the Preds no more than $12 million away from $55 million. And then there's Colin Wilson, who has scored 103 points in 190 games over the last three seasons. He too is an RFA whose new deal will be bigger, and will shrink the amount that Nashville can spend even further.

Shea Weber will be paid $14 million in salary and bonuses next season, as reported by TSN. If the Predators match the offer sheet they'll already be over their budget in 2012-13, but in the following season things get even murkier.

According to CapGeek, the Nashville Predators have six more forwards and one defenseman on the roster who will be restricted free agents after next season. Each one will get a raise in their new contract, which will make the Predators a more expensive team than they are now. They'd be spending $21 million on Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber alone, which will make it very difficult to maintain a balanced and competitive roster.

For teams who have committed fan bases and owners with deep pockets, that's all great news. If the Predators match they won't be able to trade Weber for a year, but at that point it seems likely that they'll be forced into a move.

The Oilers will be situated both financially and in terms of assets to make a play for Shea Weber one year from now. After next season the Oilers should be ready to take a major step forward, and a player like Shea could get them over the hump and into the playoffs. Each time the team hosts a playoff game they'd be helping to pay a big chunk of Weber's salary, and his ~$7.8 million cap hit should be manageable as well. Weber's agent Jarrett Bousquet confirmed on Oilers Now that he and his partner "had some really good conversations" with Steve Tambellini about adding Shea, which means that the Oilers would undoubtedly be in the market if the Predators were to start shopping their star defenseman.

If the Predators do match the Weber offer sheet, things could get very interesting after next season. The Oilers could still be in the running.

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