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A Tangled Weber

I’ll admit up front that the larger point of this blog entry was to see if I remembered my login details for my own website (mission accomplished!).

Now that I’m safely logged in, I just want to get something out of the way, and hopefully won’t take up too much of your time.

Every year around this time, we Habs fans sit around the campfire and look for the shiniest object with which we can adorn our team with. This year, many Habs fans have set their sights on Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a guy like Weber in the lineup, even at the hefty price tag he’s sure to command. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) there’s a heavy cost to snatching a guy of Weber’s caliber away from the Predators over and above his nasty cap hit.

Most Habs fans simply assume that tossing an RFA offer sheet at Weber, and forcing Nashville – a team with its own internal budget that is surely far lower than the Canadiens – to match the Habs rich offer or surrender his services. Let’s all do the happy dance, right?

You see, there’s a reason why pilfering RFAs from other teams is a rarely used method of player acquisition. On one hand, it’s the NHL equivalent of M.A.D – mutually assured destruction. You want my RFA? I’m taking yours. And the spiraling costs will simply lead to another work stoppage. Just ask Kevin Lowe if he wants a mulligan on the Dustin Penner acquisition, or ask Buffalo how they feel about having to match Lowe’s ludicrous offer to Thomas Vanek. On the other hand, I believe that what goes around, comes around. If the Habs want to swipe Shea Weber, somebody will be all too eager to take a stab at acquiring PK Subban, Carey Price, Lars Eller, or Max Pacioretty in the very near future. Given the heavy contracts the Canadiens are already saddled with, you can safely bet that at least one of those players would be plying their trade elsewhere. Also, in the ultimate safeguard against making RFA pitches for all-star talent, there’s the little issue of compensation to the other team after they fail to match the courting team’s offer.

If you want to sign an RFA, then depending on the annual cap hit they bring them, you have to give up the following assets to the other team:

Salary Amount Compensation
$994,433 or less None
Over $994,433 to $1,506,716 3rd round pick
Over $1,506,716 to $3,013,434 2nd round pick
Over $3,013,434 to $4,520,150 1st and 3rd round pick
Over $4,520,150 to $6,026,867 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick
Over $6,026,867 to $7,533,584 Two 1st’s, one 2nd, one 3rd round pick
Over $7,533,584 Four 1st round picks

Now we can safely assume that Shea Weber will fall somewhere between the last two brackets. The Canadiens already fairly thin on the farm, with little prime talent on the horizon. Dropping more high-end picks would be nothing more than a short-term payoff with a suicidal ending. Moreover, when you factor in that Montreal typically has to overpay free agents to compensate for the fishbowl, taxes, politics, (take your pick), it’s also reasonable to believe that Shea Weber would fetch over 7.533 million per season, thus forcing the Habs to kick back four first round picks to Nashville.

Read that again.

Four.

First.

Round.

Picks.

Gone.

Sure, Gauthier could always try to recoup those lost picks in other ways, but you’ve got to ask yourself if the high cap hit and lost assets would be worth acquiring one defenseman. And as a final killshot to this fantasy, let’s remember that the collective bargaining agreement is up at the end of next season, and is sure to have ramifications on how teams dole out contracts over the next year or so. It would be similarly stupid for Gauthier to saddle himself with another fat contract while ridding himself of prime assets.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

In the meantime, I’m going to write down my username and password for safe keeping.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    That would help if I had an iPhone!

    You’re right – with Markov, Gorges, Subban, Emelin as the top 4 and perhaps Gill/Hamrlik/Spacek/Weber as the 5th – 7th defenseman, that’s a nice group. I think in this day of the salary cap, draft picks are lifeblood. To give up four 1st rounders, (even two 1sts, a 2nd and a 3rd) would be crippling before long.

    I think before money gets spent on upgrading the top-6 forwards, we need to see a change in Martin’s philosophy. I would hate for Gauthier to bring in a guy who’s expected to score 30+ goals, only to sink to 20-ish because of “The System”. Size with skill is always welcome no matter the system in place, but personally I need to see a revamped style before wanting Gauthier to fetch more “names”.

  • http://www.thecheckingline.com Prax

    Kyle, there’s an iPhone app for storing your passwords ;)

    But ya, I’m glad I missed people asking for Weber, wherever you had that zany discussion. Don’t get me wrong, who wouldn’t want him on the team, but they don’t need him, not to the point of trading so many prospect or giving up so many picks. Be satisfied that we have Subban and (hopefully) Emelin, resign Markov and Gorges, and that’s a pretty damn good top 4 D. Money and energy should be exerted deepening the top 6 forwards, not the defense.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    We have to be careful with slagging the Habs 1st round draft performance. Kostitsyn isn’t yet a bust, and there’s still Price, and Pacioretty on the roster. McDonagh is going to round in to form in New York. I also strongly believe that the Canadiens will not bury Gomez’ contract until he leaves them no other choice – that is to say he will have to have another awful season, and still prove to be too difficult to trade. In other words, Gomez ain’t going anywhere unless he’s traded for another high salary, which would prevent the addition of a Weber.

    Also remember that PK Subban was drafted in the 2nd round, so we also have to be careful not to belittle the value of those picks.

    I get what you’re saying in that the chance of an elite defenseman in the lineup is enticing, but it would be very, very costly for many, many years.

    The 25 million you’re talking about will be spent very quickly…don’t expect Gauthier to go on a shopping spree this summer. Markov, Gorges and the slew of RFAs will eat up most of that money. Gauthier also can’t hamstring himself if he wants to sign Subban and Price to long term deals after next season.

    It’s an interesting debate for sure – thanks for reading!

  • Sean Dempsey

    Given Montreal’s track record with 1st round picks ( Kostystin, Higgins, Komisarek,McDonagh), it wouldn’t be a bad idea to atleast explore the option. Adding a Guy like Weber and burying Gomez contract in the minors would come out in the wash, they make relatively the same (once Weber gets his contract) and that would still leave the Canadiens with 25 million to spend this summer. Adding Weber with the Talent they already have would definetely keep the Canadiens in the top 10 for the next 3-5 years making 4 1st rounders seem more like high end 2nd picks…for Weber ? Definitely worth a shot, in my opinion atleast


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