There are a few guys in the running for the title of “The Best Defender in the NHL.” Zdeno Chara, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson to name a few. Chara is the aging monster, Doughty is the up-and-coming stud and Karlsson is the premere offensive defender in the NHL after winning his first Norris and accumulating over 25 more points than the second place finisher in defender points. But there can only be one “best” defender, and the one I have in mind’s name is Shea Weber. Over the past four years his point numbers have ranged from 43-53, he’s been a plus performer ever year (+7 and +21 over the past two years), and was 11th place in the league in Corsi Rel (with the highest competition of everyone above him) this past year. His shot was clocked at 105 MPH at the all star game, hes the Predator’s captain, and he’s got a mean streak that slammed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass in a playoff game none the less (imagine him doing that to Crosby! –insert “typical Philly” insult here, I don’t care). Here are his numbers over the past three seasons after the jump:
He’s been in the top-4 in goal scoring in each of the past three years (tied for the league lead with Norris winner Erik Karlsson this year), top-25 in assists in each of the past two years, top-10 in points in each of the past two years, and was top-10 in PPG in each of the past three years. Now lets look at his advanced numbers to help put everything in context:
(ESTOI: Even strenghth time on ice per 60 minutes of ES. CRQoC: Quality of competition, 0 is average, 1 is elite, -1 is poor competition. CRQoT: Quality of teammates. OZS%: The percentage of non-neutral zone faceoffs taken in the offensive zone. G/60 Goals per 60 minutes of ES ice time. A1/60: Primary assists per 60 minutes of ES ice time. CRel: Corsi Relative)
His minutes have increased in each of the past three years (he’s still 26, turning 27 in August---the same age as Matt Carle and Ryan Suter) and his quality of competition is elite (albeit with elite teammates). He starts in his own zone more than the offensive zone and consistently drives the play forward, evidenced by his Corsi rating (in 11-12, his +11.2 means for every 60 minutes he was on the ice, his team had 11.2 more shots directed towards the net than the opponent). His PP numbers are elite and he still logs over two minutes of short handed time on ice per game. He’s a flat out stud, now the question becomes how can we acquire him?
At this point there are three distinct ways we can acquire Weber, who is right now a restricted free agent of the Nashville Predators. The first way is for Nashville to sign Weber to a one year deal, he will become unrestricted next July first and we will then enter a bidding war with the entire NHL. By not overpaying for Jagr or Carle, we now have the cap flexibility to bid with the best of them, just like we did for Parise and Suter (we apparently had the highest offers to both players). The second way is give him an offer sheet. There are two potential problems with this. First off, because he is restricted, if we gave him an offer and he accepted, we would be required to give compensation. Compensation comes in tiers, depending on how much we offer. If our offer is between 6.7 million and 8.4 million, and he accepts, AND Nashville DOES NOT match (Their GM has already said they WILL match ANY offer) we would be forced to give Nashville two first round picks, a second round pick, and a third round pick. If they do match (which they will) then they get to keep him. If we offer over 8.4 million, the compensation is four first round picks---I highly doubt we’ll go north of 8.4 million. The question now becomes, why don’t we just take a shot and offer him 8.3ish? Lets say we offer 8 years for 8.3 per year and they accept---it would keep him off of the UFA market until his deal ends. If we offer, and they match, we would be forced to trade for him.
That brings us to our third possible way of getting him, in a trade. There are three different kinds of trades we can make depending on how the situation dictates itself. We can trade for him now, as an RFA, and then sign him. We can wait until Nashville gives their offer (most likely a 1-year deal) and trade for him in season or at the deadline (or after the season before he becomes a UFA---giving us exclusive rights to sign him before July 1st, 2013). Lastly, we can give him an offer sheet, and if the Preds match, we can still trade for him with his new contract.
(***The above scenarios are all based off of the CBA set to expire before the season. It could be totally different next year, but will most likely be very similar if not the same exact rules)
This all leads us to the main topic of this post: What would you give up for Shea Weber in a trade? Here are the three different ways I’d approach a trade for Weber:
- Sean Couturier: He is possibly our most valuable commodity after Claude Giroux in the organization. He’s 19, he’s a stud, and no one wants him to go. In a heated argument with friends we were split on weather or not we would trade Weber for Coots strait up. Seriously. If we offer them Couturier, Meszaros, and a first round pick---Nashville has to consider that offer. I don’t know how much more I’d throw in if they turn it down, but I’m very hesitant to give up Cooter and I don’t know if I’d even pull the trigger---even if it lands us the best defender in hockey.
- The Schenns: Most teams want Coots or Braydon Schenn for their big ticket players (CBJ wants them for Nash, ANA wants them for Ryan, NSH will want them for Weber). We could probably swing Braydon and a second pick for either Nash or Ryan (I wouldn’t give up Schenn and a first for anyone---except Weber), but Nashville needs a defender. In the above scenario with Coots I gave up Mezaros because I want to keep the Schenn’s together. If we ship Braydon, we should send Luke too. The Schenns should be able to pry Weber from Nashville---and if they cant a second or even a first will force Nashville to accept. The thing that worries me with this is the loyalty thing. Too much movement on the roster could hinder potential FA’s from coming here (see: Parise, Zach and Suter, Ryan), but who knows if that plays a factor in their decisions…
- The youth: I don’t blow this team up for anyone but Shea Weber, he’s that good. What expendable pieces do we have? Former top-10 pick Jake Voracek who’s been at 46-50 points in each of the past three years is a starting piece. If he had that production in Nashville last year, he’d be their 4th highest scoring forward at only 21 years old (the top-3 are all in their low-30’s). Matt Read led rookies in goal scoring and had 47 points---putting him right there with Voracek’s averages. Although Read is already 26, he’s still making under a million bucks for the next two years---giving him tremendous value. Andrej Meszaros is a capable big, puck-moving defender that can help Nashville out on the back end given the loss of Suter and Weber. Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson both had good stints in the NHL last year---either one of them could be a throw in for some young, cheap, D help. Nick Cousins was our 3rd pick in 2011 and was in the top-10 in scoring in the OHL with 88 points, he could be a bargaining piece. And then we have our draft picks. I’d have to imagine a first, Mez, Read, Jake, and Gus get Shea Weber in orange and black.
So now that we’ve blown up the roster, what does it look like?
CAPGEEK.COM USER GENERATED ROSTER
My Custom Lineup
Scott Hartnell ($4.200m) / Danny Briere ($6.500m) / Wayne Simmonds ($1.750m)
Ruslan Fedotenko ($1.750m) / Claude Giroux ($3.750m) /
Jody Shelley ($1.100m) / Brayden Schenn ($3.110m) /
Eric Wellwood ($0.580m) / Maxime Talbot ($1.750m) /
Sean Couturier ($1.375m) /
Zac Rinaldo ($0.544m) /
Kimmo Timonen ($6.333m) / Nicklas Grossmann ($3.500m)
Braydon Coburn ($4.500m) / Andreas Lilja ($0.738m)
Luke Schenn ($3.600m) / Shea Weber ($8.300m)
Bruno Gervais ($0.825m) /
Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.667m)
Michael Leighton ($0.900m)
Oskars Bartulis ($0.100m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $70,200,000; CAP PAYROLL: $60,871,944; BONUSES: $2,705,000
CAP SPACE (20-man roster): $9,328,056
Roster Analysis: The top-6 is very solid but is missing one player. Hartnell, Giroux, Schenn, Briere, and Simmonds are a solid start. The third line, or the ‘shut down’ line, would consist of Rusty Fedetenko (coming off of a 35% OZS in New York last year---obviously used to a shut down role) and Max Talbot (who struggled in the dot at only a 45% clip) centered by 19-year-old phenom Sean Couturier. Zac Rinaldo with another year of experience and discipline is an average fourth liner (and one of the best **legal** body checkers in all of hockey) and Eric Wellwood showed us last post season that he truly doesn’t have an “off button” and will be very effective for us on our fourth line.
Defensively, we’d be stacked. Schenn-Weber, Coburn-Timonen, Grossmann-Gervais. The kicker is that we’d have 9.3 million in cap space. Meszaros costs 4.0 million, Voracek is in the 2.75-3.0 range (he’s still unsigned as a restricted free agent), and Read is just shy of a million---totaling roughly 8 million. We’d still be able to go after a 4th line center and a top-6 winger. There are players out there who fit the bill, Mike Knuble could fit in the top-6 and be a big body in front on the PP. Damon Lankow is a tremendous defensive center. But most notably, we would still be able to go after Shane Doan with all of that cap room! Harts-G-Doan, Schenn-Briere-Simmonds, Rusty-Coots-Talbo, Wellwood-???-Rinaldo. That team is a Stanley cup contender---I don’t care who’s in net.
Here’s the kicker in all of this: Shea Weber’s first captain in the NHL was Kimmo Timonen. Shea came up in 05-06 and played half of that season and all of the 06-07 season with Kimmo Timonen wearing the “C” in Nashville. Also on that team? Scotty Hartnell. If players recruit players---which they obviously do (Max Talbot is going to be the best man at Gervais’ wedding soon), this gives the Flyers an inside track to Shea Weber.
What do you guys think?
PS: In the playoffs, there is no salary cap. If Pronger decides he’s healthy, our top-3 defenders are Chris Pronger, Shea Weber, and Kimmo Timonen. We will win the Stanley Cup. Even if I were in net.