With Zach Parise having already been signed to a one-year deal, the only really big arbitration case we were waiting to hear was that of Nashville defenseman, and Norris Trophy finalist, Shea Weber.
Arbitration can often turn ugly. Teams are forced to downplay the importance of a player to keep their salary as low as possible, which could create problems in the long term, depending on what type of figure that player is awarded from an arbitrator.
Unfortunately for the Predators, their franchise defenseman was awarded the highest arbitration figure in the history of the NHL. The 25-year-old d-man was awarded $7.5 million, which is $500,000 above the previous high set by John Leclair back in 2000. It’s almost $3 million above what the Preds had submitted as a desired salary for Weber, who was the runner-up to Nicklas Lidstrom in the Norris voting.
The ramifications of Wednesday’s hearing could be big for the Preds and could even result in Nashville losing their franchise player, especially if they don’t show an ability to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
The concern here is what Weber’s figure could mean for LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Like Weber and two other young, budding defensemen in Luke Schenn and Zach Bogosian, Doughty is a restricted free agent that still lacks a new contract. The Kings have been among the league’s busiest teams since the offseason got underway, but haven’t been able to reach an agreement with their star d-man.
Throughout the whole process, Kings GM Dean Lombardi has remained optimistic, and both sides appear to be willing to negotiate. Perhaps Weber’s hearing was the first shoe to drop towards getting a deal for Doughty.
Now, Doughty’s body of work isn’t quite up to Weber’s, having played in about 170 less games in his career and being just 21 years of age. But the thing the two do have in common is what they mean to their respective franchises. Despite the presence of bigger names on the forward lines, Lombardi has made no secret of his strategy to build the team from the back to the front, meaning goaltending and defense are what this team is to be built on.
Like Weber, Doughty has been a Norris Trophy finalist in his career, with Doughty coming up short in a race against Duncan Keith, who was on the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks when the two were nominated in 2009-10. That season, Doughty had 59 points and was a plus-20.
His stats fell off a bit due to some injuries in 2010-11, but he actually boasted numbers quite similar to Weber. He had just eight less points and was a plus-13 on the season, compared to a plus-7 for Weber.
Does the fact that Doughty put up similar numbers to Weber mean he could be in for a salary as large as Weber was awarded by an arbitrator? That’s unlikely. Due to Doughty’s age and lack of time spent in the NHL so far, he will likely earn around $6 million with a new contract. Anything plus or minus $500k could make sense, given what a comparable d-man like Dion Phaneuf earned in his second NHL contract ($6.5 mil).
There’s still no rush to get a deal done, since the team has well over a month before training camp gets under way, but with Weber’s arbitration hearing now over, we could be seeing these young defenseman start getting their new paper. If Lombardi has been speaking with Doughty’s camp as often as we’re hearing, it might not be too long before Doughty is locked up for LA.