One of the first things any detective does when investigating a crime is to determine motive.
No one is trying to suggest that the Nashville Predators stole Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators. In fact, they paid a pretty significant price — a first-round pick in this year’s draft and potentially a second- or third-round choice in 2012.
Chances are nobody spent a lot of time wondering why they made such a move. It’s clear that general manager David Poile wanted to strengthen the roster for a playoff push and enhance the team’s chances of finally getting past the first round in the postseason. Plus, given the fact that Fisher has two years remaining on his contract, he put in place a significant piece for future seasons. Again, no harm there. In fact, the real crime would be if he didn’t attempt such things.
But none of that completely dismisses the question of motive.
While it’s clear why Poile would want to add Fisher, the essential question is why he was willing to give up a first-round draft pick, particularly considering the degree to which he and his staff rely on the selection of prospects to stock the organization.
Of the 13 players Nashville has drafted in the first round, eight are currently with the organization in some form, including Alexander Radulov, whose rights belong to the Predators while he plays in Russia. Three are full-time NHL players elsewhere who yielded a return through trades.
It was just the third time ever that Nashville dealt a first-round pick. One of the previous times, Poile later cut a deal to get that selection back, which he ultimately used on highly regarded defense prospect Jonathon Blum. Of the 20 players in uniform last week against the San Jose Sharks, 12 (60 percent) were Predators draft picks who have spent their entire careers with the organization.
Poile said the team’s scouts are so enamored of the players they’ve selected that they couldn’t bear to part with any who Ottawa might have deemed suitable compensation for Fisher.
Or is it that he’s confident the team is going to have a first round choice in June, after all?
Keep in mind that captain Shea Weber is in the final year of his current contract and headed for restricted free agency at the end of this season. Without getting into the details, that means if Nashville doesn’t sign Weber to a new contract by the end of June, he’ll have the opportunity to solicit offers from other teams. The Predators would have the right to match any offer he receives in order to retain him.
Weber is one of the top young defensemen in the game. He has league-wide appeal beyond that of any other Nashville player ever, attributable to his role as a top player on Canada’s 2010 Olympic gold medal team and his runner-up finishes in the last two hardest-shot competitions at All-Star weekends.
There will be no shortage of teams expressing interest in Weber. At least a few will have the wherewithal to make an offer the Predators can’t match, and Weber will be gone.
The only saving grace is that when a team loses a restricted free agent in that manner, it receives a draft pick — or more — as compensation, depending on the size of the contract. It can be as many as four first-round picks.
For most, it’s too steep a price to pay, which is why such deals are rare. For Weber, it seems a small price to pay — much smaller, in fact, than for someone like Fisher. Unless the loss of a first-round pick in order to get Fisher was just temporary, that is.
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