Shea Weber makes $4.5 million against the cap this season, but is due for a raise in the off-season. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
The contract status of Nashville Predators star defenseman Shea Weber has been a subject of conjecture with some observers suggesting he’ll opt for a one-year deal, which would then qualify him for unrestricted free agency in 2012 and thus force the Predators to consider trading him rather than risk losing him for nothing. THN's Edward Fraser suggested on the weekend that the Predators should at least explore the idea of trading their prize defenseman this off-season.
While it’s uncertain at this point what direction Weber's contract talks will go, he recently told The Tennessean he enjoys playing in Nashville and remains hopeful of signing a new deal.
The report suggested Weber's comments likely mean there won't be any further movement on his contract talks until the season is over.
If unsigned by July 1 it's possible Weber, a restricted free agent, will receive an offer sheet from a rival club that is perhaps too expensive for the cost-conscious Predators to match, but one shouldn't rule out the Predators re-signing him to a multi-year deal before then.
Another possibility is the Predators could file for arbitration merely as a tactic to make him ineligible to receive an offer sheet should his contract negotiations stretch into July. The Rangers employed a similar strategy several years ago with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, which gave them more time to flesh out the details of a multi-year extension.
Teams seeking starting goaltenders in this summer's free agent market will find the pickings slim.
Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press listed Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov, Florida's Tomas Vokoun, Ottawa's Craig Anderson, Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson, New Jersey's Johan Hedberg, Minnesota's Jose Theodore and Toronto's J-S Giguere as the best goaltenders potentially available come July 1.
And it's possible half of them will be re-signed by their current teams before then.
Coyotes management wants to open contract extension talks with Bryzgalov, but cannot do so until their ownership situation is finally resolved.
If the sale of the team to investor Matthew Hulsizer falls through and the club, as rumoured, ends up relocating to Winnipeg, that could have an adverse impact upon the efforts to re-sign Bryzgalov, who has spent his entire career in warm-weather cities and may not be keen to follow the Coyotes north.
Vokoun’s name has figured prominently in trade rumors the past two seasons, yet the Panthers didn’t find any takers for him at the Feb. 28 trade deadline. It’s possible Vokoun will find a limited market for his services if he's pursuing a big-money deal in the summer.
Anderson appears to have regained his form since being dealt from Colorado to Ottawa and if he keeps playing well down the stretch, the Senators are likely to re-sign him.
The same goes for Roloson, who has stabilized the Lightning's goaltending since his acquisition from the Islanders in a mid-season trade. If he has a strong showing in the playoffs the Bolts will probably ink him to a one-year extension.
Hedberg could also be re-signed by the New Jersey Devils, thanks to his solid performance filling in for the injured Martin Brodeur this season.
It’s possible the Wild will consider retaining Theodore for another season to back up Niklas Backstrom, while Giguere could remain a Maple Leaf if he agrees to a significant pay cut to mentor James Reimer, especially if management opts to pass on the Jonas Gustavsson experiment.
The Sporting News' Craig Custance added Evgeni Nabokov to the list, though the Russian might not be available if the Islanders successfully petition the league that his contract for this season should carry into next because of his refusal to report after the team claimed him off waivers from Detroit.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.