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Predators Shea Weber wins US$7.5 million in arbitration, team wants longer deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - An arbitrator has awarded Nashville defenceman Shea Weber US$7.5 million for the upcoming season, and Predators general manager David Poile says it's proof their captain is one of the best in the NHL.

"Shea, by this award, certainly got recognized as one of the top, if not the best defenceman in all of the National Hockey League," Poile said in a conference call Wednesday shortly after the arbitrator's ruling.

Weber won the highest award handed out in NHL arbitration and made him the fifth-highest paid defenceman in the League. Poile said that they negotiated hard with Weber's agents talking everything from a one-year contract to a multi-year deal but couldn't agree on the term, length or structure.

The Predators chose to take the Norris Trophy finalist and team captain to arbitration, and the arbitrator heard arguments Tuesday in a hearing in Toronto. The Predators argued that Weber was due $4.75 million, while Weber's agents countered with $8.5 million.

"We will continue to work on a longer term contract once the season gets started," Poile said.

Weber will be a restricted free agent after the 2011-12 season. He had 48 points in 82 games last season in helping Nashville reach the Western Conference semifinals for the first time. He's a two-time all-star and helped Canada win the Olympic gold medal in the 2010 Olympics.

"It is nice to get this arbitration process out of the way for now and hopefully this can lead to further negotiations between my agents and the Predators," Weber said on the conference call. "Hopefully we can get something done long-term, but for now a one-year deal is done, and I am excited to get ready for the season. I am happy to be a Nashville Predator. I'm thankful to all the fans for hanging in there through this whole process."

Weber called the process draining. But he said he does think that the Predators' owners and Poile are committed to winning and are trying to fill in the pieces needed after losing to Vancouver in the conference semifinals in six games.

"Now it is just get ready for the season," Weber said.

Poile remains optimistic of landing Weber to a longer deal. The Predators also have goaltender Pekka Rinne and defenceman Ryan Suter due to become unrestricted free agents July 1, 2012.

"His goal, as is the Predators' goal, is to win the Stanley Cup," Poile said. "My vision, hopefully in the near future is Shea raises the Stanley Cup in a Predators uniform.'

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