Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber was awarded $7.5 million today in arbitration. That’s the highest arbitration award in NHL history, surpassing the $7 million award to John LeClair in 2000.
Weber also becomes the game’s highest-paid defenseman, surpassing Brian Campbell’s $7,142,875 average annual salary through 2015-16.
The arbitration award probably comes as bad news for Nashville, certainly comes as great news to Weber, and can’t be bad for Drew Doughty. With Doughty and the Kings still working on a new contract, Weber’s salary will certainly become a bargaining chip on Doughty’s table.
But how much is that chip worth?
Kings GM Dean Lombardi was asked essentially that very question last week, following Mike Richards’ introductory press conference.
“I think (Weber’s contract) gives you some evidence, but even he’s different because he’s a year from (unrestricted) free agency,” Lombardi said. “That’s one of the hard parts you’ve got here – there’s not a lot of defensemen, other than Dion Phaneuf, Duncan Keith, there hasn’t been a lot-a lot of these top young kids who have gotten top dollar, most of them are forwards. You’ve got a big hole in the market of what defensemen are (worth). You could even say (Keith) Yandle, there’s a similarity in numbers but he’s older than Drew. So he’s not totally analagous. You could say Weber – but he’s older, he’s one year away.
“So is it relevant? Yes, but it’s a question of how much weight you really give it. You’ve got a lot of these things that are out there, throw in the fact that the CBA is going to be up …you’ve got all of these little issues, piece in how much weight you give each one, then put it all together.”
Doughty earned $3.475 million including bonuses last season in the final year of his entry-level contract, according to capgeek.com. Like Weber, he’s already finished second in the Norris Trophy race. Doughty can argue that his 43 assists and 59 points in 2009-10 were both better than Weber’s single-season career bests, but Weber boasts four seasons with at least 16 goals. Doughty dipped to 11 goals and 29 assists last season; Weber had 16 and 32, respectively.
Most important to remember, an independent arbitrator will not have the final say of how much Doughty makes. The Kings will certainly try to convince Doughty’s camp to be flexible with the structure of his next contract by asking him to consider the bigger team picture.
“Our biggest concern is fitting it into a salary structure that allows us to -that’s our biggest concern. However you come to the number, the bottom line is making that number fit in where you are and where you want to go,” Lombardi said last week.