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Weber, Predators still thinking long-term after arbitration

The Sports Xchange

Shea Weber is not at all bitter after going through the arbitration process that saw him get a $7.5 award to play hockey in 2011-12.

At $7.5 million, is there really any reason for the defenseman to be bitter?

Now, can both sides keep the door open as they try to work things out long-term.

Asked if things are OK between the defenseman and the club, Weber said, "Yeah, for sure. I think that was just part of the business.

"Obviously no one wants it to come to that, but it is what it is. We've got something in place for now. Hopefully that can allow more time to get something longer-term done. Now it is just time to focus on hockey. It has been a long process, a little bit stressful and draining, but now I can just get ready for the season."

In short, Weber, a cornerstone of this franchise and the runner-up for the 2011 Norris Trophy, wants to stay and the club wants him to stay. But the economics of a franchise that's fighting to stay solvent trying to keep the top-dollar players makes everything murky.

Weber asked for $8.5 million and the club bid $4.75. Arbitrator Michel Picher did the unusual by more than splitting the difference, this time in the player's favor.

Weber's cap hit is more than twice that of all but three of his teammates and, if things aren't worked out, he can be a restricted free agent next summer, when the Preds will not have the option of again seeking arbitration. And while offer sheets don't fly around the league all that often, Weber could be an exception.

There's also the added problem of goalie Pekka Rinne and defenseman Ryan Suter can become unrestricted free agents after next season.

"We're a work in progress. We have lots of work to do," says general manager David Poile. "We have a couple of other free agents who are unrestricted free agents after this season in Suter and Pekka Rinne, which we'll deal with at some point when all the players are back in town.

"I would still like to, when given the opportunity, to improve our team -- probably more up front than at any other position."

The Preds do have plenty of room under the cap and more roster additions figure to follow.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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