Wednesday marked one year since the Nashville Predators matched the Philadelphia Flyers’ offer sheet to Shea Weber.
For the Predators, it was an important anniversary. It was a reminder of the day they announced to the rest of the National Hockey League that they were willing — and able — to pay big money for talent, in this case $110 million over 14 years for a player they drafted and developed.
At least that was the theory.
While Weber’s contract guarantees his rights to Nashville through the 2025-26 season, the rest of the league considered Wednesday the day the two-time Norris Trophy candidate became available again.
League rules mandate that when a team signs a player under such circumstances it must wait at least a year before it can trade him.
Almost from the moment the Predators committed to keep Weber speculation began about when — and to which team — they eventually would trade their captain. Pundits in Philadelphia, for example, reasoned that it was only a matter of time before he ended up in that city.
Talk of a Weber deal began anew, particularly in Canada, this week.
The widely held belief around the hockey world is that Nashville lacks the wherewithal to deal with the bonus-laden contract that exceeds the boundaries for deals established this year with the new collective bargaining agreement.
Yet since the end of the season Nashville has signed right wing Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Roman Josi to long-term deals, added five players on the first day of free agency — and has given no indication that it intends to send Weber packing at any time in the near or distant future.
According to capgeek.com, the Predators still have a little more than $4.5 million of salary cap space for the coming season.
General manager David Poile, though, has been consistent in his message when asked about the subject.
“We have one of the best defensemen in the world in Shea Weber, and we have one of the best goalies in the world in Pekka Rinne, and we’re going to build our team around them,” he says.
The Predators thought they had traded in their image as a financially challenged team when they made the Weber deal. Wednesday was a reminder that might not be the case.