With Shea Weber wrapped up as team captain for the next fourteen years, and Pekka Rinne behind him for half that time, the Nashville Predators appear set for another season where they realistically have a shot at the Stanley Cup.
All the gnashing of teeth that has been ongoing since the Preds beat the Red Wings in five games in April appears to have abruptly come to an end on Tuesday, when the Predators matched the Philadelphia Flyers’ 14-year, $110 million offer to retain Captain Weber.
Tom Cigarran, leader of the Preds ownership group, was a happy man at Wednesday’s press conference in spite of busting open the collective piggybank to be able to shell out the big bucks to keep Weber wearing the gold sweater.
“It’s a good day to be a Predators fan, and even better days lay ahead of us,” Cigarran exclaimed.
He then detailed the collective parts that led to the decision to sign Weber.
“At the Predators, we have a three-way working relationship among Ownership, Hockey Operations and Business Operations. Owners provide the basic funding for the team and make sure we have the very best leadership throughout our organization. Hockey Operations job is to make sure that we have an elite, winning franchise on the ice year after year. Business Operations’ job is to make sure we operate as an elite franchise off the ice and that our current fans have reasons to continue their active support of the Predators and that we create new fans every day. These three parts of our organization work very hard, very effectively, and seamlessly to get us to the decision to make Shea Weber our team captain and leader for the next 14 years.”
Preds CEO Jeff Cogen explained that the move was fan-based.
“The business decision was a little more complex, but at the end of the day, it came down to one issue for our group. We have the best fans in the National Hockey League and we owe it to these fans to continue to do what we’ve been doing and build upon it, and not go backwards. It came down to that simple point.”
Later in the day it was Preds Coach Barry Trotz and Shea Weber’s time to speak in a telephonic press conference that included ever hockey writer in North America. The start was marred by a local radio station’s inability to mute their audio stream but the rest was pure (Predators) gold.
Weber sounded excited to know where he would be for the next 14 years, “I’m excited and it very exciting times for the Predators organization and myself. I love the fans and it is a very positive thing that the team stepped up.”
Weber said the last week was “a very stressful week for him.” He claims to have separated himself from the process spending time in the gym, on the lake and away from people and the internet.
When asked about his agent’s comments last week about Weber wanting to play for a contender in Philadelphia and that Nashville was in rebuilding mode, Weber termed that “business” and said that that was behind all him.
Further he said, “We utilized the CBA the best way we could with the way it is. It worked out great. I love in Nashville. The team stepped up.”
“This is what we needed, ownership to step up and show we are stable. Its going to attract guys.” Weber said. “We’re signed long-term. There’s no more excuses.”
Trotz was equally elated with the signing and was the one that got to tell the Captain that he was returning to the Preds. “Shea had me over to his house, and we shared a glass of ice water together.”
When asked about the team being in “rebuild” mode, Trotz rebuked the thought. “We are in a go-forward mode to win the Stanley Cup. I didn’t like the word ‘rebuild’ ”
If the season started today, Trotz indicated that Roman Josi would probably be teamed with Weber on the first blue-line pair.
Going forward, Trotz explained, “I’ve been around the team a long time and I’m more excited about this team than any team we’ve had. The team is so much further along that the one that we started the season with last year.”
With all the things the Predators have gone through in the last three months, the reality is that on paper, Trotz is correct in saying the team is probably the best in franchise history at this point.
Even with the losses of Ryan Suter, Jordin Tootoo, Anders Lindback, and latecomers Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, all of the younger Predators are a year more experienced and ready to step up and fill a role with more playing time.
All of the team stalwarts are still in place with Mike Fisher, Marty Erat, David Legwand, Patric Hornqvist returning and the Preds will have Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad from the outset.
There was also discussion from Trotz about adding more players with specific discussion about Shane Doan and a top four D-man.
It was really amazing to see what a difference “the biggest signing in franchise history” made with the owners, players, coaches, and fans as judged by the twin pressers and reaction over social media.
Once again, it is business as usual in Smashville; the more things change, the more they stay the same.