Aug 032011
 

As we all await the results of Shea Weber’s arbitration hearing we are all speculating the salary that the arbitrator will award Shea Weber.  Speculation is that Shea Weber is asking for $8.5M and the Predators are asking for $4.75M.  Damien Cox believes he is probably going to get awarded $7.5-8M.

Dion Phaneuf makes $6.5 million per (all figures U.S.), and Weber is a superior player from the same 2003 NHL draft class. The same goes for Weber as compared to Brent Burns, and Burns signed a five-year, $28.5 million contract (cap hit $5.76 million) with the San Jose Sharks on Monday, eight years after being the 20th pick in that ’03 draft.

So we know the floor here for Weber’s services has to be $6.5 million, and the ceiling around $7.5-8 million.

That seems to be the common sentiment around the league.

Notable Nashville Predator blogger Dirk Hoag from On The Forecheck tweeted his prediction of $7.25M.

I’ll guess Weber gets $7.25 million. Phaneuf’s a comp at $6.5M, but Shea also has the “C” & a Norris nomination.

Personally, I believe these numbers are significantly higher than an arbitrator will award Weber.  First off, Damien Cox uses Brent Burns contract as a comparable but it is not a valid comparable because Burns’ new contract is considered a UFA contract (he would have been a UFA next summer) and thus cannot be used as a comparable in arbitration.

Phaneuf is a decent comparable and I’ll also toss in two additional comparables of Brent Seabrook and Keith Yandle.

Player Year Prior Two Year Prior Three Year Prior
Shea Weber 82GP, 16g, 48pts, 56PIM, +7 78GP, 16g, 43pts, 36PIM, even 81GP, 23g, 53pts, 80PIM, +1
Dion Phaneuf 82GP, 17g, 50pts, 182PIM, +12 79GP, 17g, 50pts, 98PIM, +10 82GP, 20g, 49pts, 93PIM, +5
Brent Seabrook 82GP, 9g, 48pts, 47PIM, even 78GP, 4g, 30pts, 59PIM, +20 82GP, 8g, 26pts, 62PIM, +23
Keith Yandle 82GP, 11g, 59pts, 68PIM, +12 82GP, 12g, 41pts, 45PIM, +16 69GP, 4g, 30pts, 37PIM, -4

The closest comparable to Weber as far as their stats in the years prior to signing their contracts is Phaneuf.  Their goal and point totals are very close though Phaneuf has far more PIMs and a better +/- rating.  Seabrook has lower point totals 2 and 3 years back and is much less of a goal scorer than Weber.  Yandle on the other hand signed his contract after a great 59 point season in which he was third in points by a defenseman.  He is a better goal scorer than Seabrook but not quite to the same level of Phaneuf and Weber and has a shorter track record of performance.

As far as contracts go, Phaneuf signed a 6 year contract with a cap hit of $6.5M,  Seabrook signed a 5 year deal with a cap hit of $5.8M, and Yandle signed a 5 year contract with a cap hit of $5.25M.  Based on the stats that can be used in any comparison, it is difficult to argue that Weber is measurably better than Phaneuf was in his pre-contract season(s).  From that one would suggest $6.5M is an upper limit on Weber’s contract.  Under normal circumstances one would suggest that Seabrook’s contract is a lower limit but we must remember that Seabrook’s contract eats up several seasons (4) where he could have had UFA status where as Weber’s contract only covers a single RFA season and Weber would still be an RFA next summer.  In that respect, Yandle’s contract might actually be a better comparable, plus is it based on more recent market conditions, not 3 years ago.  Yandle is one year younger than Weber and has 3 more RFA seasons to Weber’s 2.  Yandle’s contract pays him $4.75M, 5.0M, 5.25M, 5.5M and 5.75M over the next 5 seasons.  The overall average is $5.25M but his 3 RFA season average is $5.0M.

Two other possible comparable players are Duncan Keith and Dustin Byfuglien.  In Keith’s case he signed a 12 year deal with a cap hit of $5.538M but I really don’t know how to compare a 1 year deal with a 12 year deal.  In Byfuglien’s case he signed a 5 year deal with a cap hit of $5.2M but with his history of playing both forward and defense makes any comparison much more difficult.

So with that we have the best comparables being Phaneuf at $6.5M and Yandle at $5.25M and that I think is the range I think the arbitrator is looking at.  There is only one defenseman in the NHL with a cap hit over $7M (Brian Campbell at $7.142M) so I would be shocked if there was an award above $7M.  Furthermore, there are only 8 defensemen with a cap hit over $6M (Campbell, Chara, Bouwmeester, Boyle, Phaneuf, Redden -not really in NHL though, Timonen, Lidstrom) and only Phaneuf signed his contract as an RFA so even arguing that he is worth $6M is a tough sell IMO.  In the end I suspect Weber will get awarded a contract somewhere around the $6M point, possibly a little more, possible a little less.

Update:  The arbitrator awarded Weber a 1 year $7.5M contract.  This tells me that the arbitrator is using actual dollar figures in his decision and using players like Duncan Keith ($8M) and Seabrook ($7M) and their front loaded contracts.  This means front loaded contracts are hurting the NHL owners in arbitration now.  This means had Parise gone to arbitration he could have used Malkin ($9M) and Spezza ($8M) as comparables and got a contract significantly higher than the $6M he agreed to with the Devils.