With salary cap recapture imminently looming over the Canadiens and Predators, Shea Weber determines the fate of both franchises.
In a media discussion on Tuesday, Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin may have leaked some critical information that could be nightmare fuel for Nashville Predators general manager David Poille.
In the discussion, which was conducted in French, Drouin mentioned that "He retired basically, he won't come back for us, you move on, hockey is over (for him)" when talking about the teams captain, Shea Weber. The Canadiens PR team immediately went to work, and released a statement mentioning that at this time, Weber has not officially signed any retirement papers.
But, this secret that is being kept in the dark is also one of the most mysterious and infatuating situations in the entirety of the NHL at the moment, and begs one of the biggest "what if?" questions that we all seek an answer to - What if Shea Weber retires today?
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Before we seek an answer to that question, we need to establish a couple of things.
Understanding Weber's Contract
Prior to donning the "C" and leading the Montreal Canadiens to the 2021 Stanley Cup FInals, Shea Weber was selected 49th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators. In the summer of 2012, Weber became a restricted free-agent (RFA), and required a new contract. Since he was an RFA, if a team other than the Predators wanted to take a chance at signing him, they would have to submit an offer sheet to him, and if he signed it, would have to wait for the Predators to match or walk away from the deal. If the Predators decided to walk away, the team who submitted the offer sheet would be required to compensate the Predators with a variety of their own draft picks. Seems complicated and unnecessary, right?
Insert the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers, lead at the time by Paul Holmgren, submitted an offer sheet to Weber. The contract came in at 14-years which would pay Weber $110 million over that time span. The Predators, not wanting to lose the all-star defenceman, decided to match the offer. So despite their efforts, Philadelphia would not sign Weber, and he would stay in Nashville under the contract the 14 year contract that the Flyers submitted in their offer sheet.
The total break down of salary in Weber's deal showed that it was front loaded, meaning that the bulk of the salary would be earned in the first few years of the deal, and inevitably tail off as the deal grew closer to expiry. In Weber's case, he would earn $14 million in the first four years of the deal, $12 million in the two seasons following that, $6 million in the four years following, $3 million the following season, and end with $1 million for the final three years of the deal.
Sounds sketchy, right? Well, that's because it is.
Due to contracts like this, and a few others that existed at the time, the NHL mandated a salary cap recapture penalty for teams that signed front loaded deals like this, under the assumption that the player would retire before he reaches the end of his contract. Lets take a look at what cap recapture is, before we look at the implications in this scenario.
What Is Cap Recapture?
As previously mentioned, the NHL implemented a salary cap recapture penalty for teams who signed a player to a long-term contract, which posed a risk for the player to retire before the contract was expired. This eventually also ended up leading to the league implementing a rule for contract length, where a team can re-sign a player for eight years, or seven years if signed out of free agency at a maximum. Bye bye, fourteen year deals.
Cap recapture penalizes the team who signed the player to the contract, so in this case, Nashville would be on the hook for the remainder of Weber's deal if he were to retire before the contract is expired. Only once in the history of the NHL has a recapture penalty been issued, and it involved Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks. When Luongo retired in Florida, the Cancuks, who signed him to his original deal, were hit with a $3 million dead cap hit for three years.
The "Coles Notes" about cap recapture is that it penalizes the team who signed the player to the deal if the player signed to the deal retires prior to the contract expiring. Remember this point as we tie it all together here.
What Does This Mean For Nashville?
Due to the length and dollars of the Weber contract, Nashville will be on the line for some serious dough if he does in fact decide to retire.
Weber has five years left on his deal that will carry an AAV of $7.86 million. If he retires today, he is still owed $24.6 million on the deal. Luckily, if this does happen, as per the new CBA, Nashville's cap recapture hit will not exceed his current AAV cap hit. Basically, instead of having a hefty $24.6 million hit, they will carry his $7.86 million hit until the entirety of the money owed is paid off. You can look at this similarly to if a player was bought out of their contract, except in this case, the cap hit would stay the same instead of eventually tapering off in the event of a buyout.
David Poille can breathe a *slight* sigh of relief. Although the money owed still affects his cap, it isn't nearly as damaging as carrying a full $24.6 million in dead money.
Needless to say, I think every NHL executive is happy to know that contracts like this are henceforth abolished from ever being signed again.
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