Trading Shea Weber Could Cost Nashville A Lot
In moving Seth Jones to Columbus, the Nashville Predators acquired the number one centre they have longed for by adding Ryan Johansen to their line up.
But some felt General Manager Dave Poile had moved the wrong defenceman, with team Captain Shea Weber their preferred worm to dangle before clubs such as the Blue Jackets, Edmonton and anyone else looking for a top defenceman to add to their ranks.
I admit, I was among them. But diving in to the murky world of cap recapture penalties and Poile’s reasons for holding on to the 30-year old blue liner may make more sense.
Travis Yost wrote an excellent piece on Weber’s declining effectiveness, especially when compared to other top defencemen in the NHL, making a compelling argument for moving the British Columbia native whilst he is still perceived as one of the games better blue liners.
But the CBA has ensured few trades are based solely on on ice factors – the cap matters.
For Nashville, the difficulty in moving Weber is not necessarily finding someone who can absorb his $7.86m per year cap hit, but what happens if they trade him and he retires before the end of his deal in 2026.
The cap recapture penalty, which was introduced in the last CBA as a way of counteracting the increasing number of front loaded contracts being signed (the most infamous of which may be Roberto Luongo’s) could hammer Nashville harder than any other club if they traded Weber and he then hung up his skates.
There is an excellent explanation of the cap recapture penalty on Reddit’s r/hockey, which also uses Weber as a case study.
The cap recapture penalty subtracts the total cap hit from the actual amount paid to a player over the same period to calculate the total cap recapture penalty. This is then divided by the total number of years left on the player’s contract to produce an annual cap recapture penalty.
As an example, if Weber were to retire at the end of this season, the sums would come out thus:
Weber would have been paid $56m by Nashville since his deal began in 2012.
Weber has cost Nashville $31.4m against the cap during that period ($7.86m annual cap hit x four years)
This gives us a cap recapture penalty of $24.6m.
With ten years still to go on the deal, if Shea Weber retired this summer Nashville would be left with an annual cap recapture penalty of $2.46m until 2026.
To apply a more ‘real world’ scenario, it would not be unreasonable to suggest Weber could play until he is 37, setting a retirement year of 2022 and leaving Nashville with an annual cap recapture penalty of $6.36m for the remaining four years of Weber’s contract.
Believe it or not, it gets worse if Nashville trade the veteran defenceman.
Lets first assume Poile trades Weber this summer.
Broad Street Hockey demonstrated what acquiring the Olympic gold medallist would mean for Philadelphia, whose 2012 offer sheet led to this contract being signed, in a blog post two years ago – even then the most the Flyers would be hit by in terms of annual cap recapture penalties would have been $3.29m until 2026.
For a team who feel they can ‘win now’, such problems down the road would be tolerable if it led to a Stanley Cup.
But for Nashville, trading Weber this summer could see them stuck with a cap recapture penalty of as much as $24.6m if Weber retired with 1-year left on his contract.
Even returning to our earlier estimate of a 2022 retirement, the Predators would still be on the hook for $6.14m per year until 2026. If the former Kelowna Rocket holds on for one more year, that jumps to $8.19m per year for three years.
If Nashville waits two more years, when Weber’s take home pay finally becomes less than his cap hit and $80m of the deals $110m total will have been paid off, things get even worse for the Tennessee franchise, even if other number become more tolerable for potential trade partners.
A trade in 2018 followed by retirement in 2022 would cost Nashville $8.21m in cap space until 2026. And that number only goes up each year until the contract expires.
It’s no secret the cap world is murky, with the finer points of the CBA mind boggling to most. I’m almost hoping my maths are wrong in many ways, so incredible are the numbers involved for the Predators, even if Weber stays with the franchise.
While maximum cap recapture penalties appear to exist for players remaining with the same team, no such limit seems to have been set for those who are traded – with Vancouver also potentially on the hook for up to $8.5m if Roberto Luongo calls it a day before his contract expires:
Changes to the CBA, with revenue related maximums and more defined term limits, have essentially put an end to such brutal situations as the ones Nashville and Vancouver face – though it should be said they are of their own making.
After initially struggling to understand why many Predators fans were so ‘comfortable’ (for lack of a better word) with Weber staying put, any on ice decline seems to pale in to insignificance compared to the whopping cap penalty the club would have to carry for a player no longer on the team if Weber was traded, regardless of what return Poile might be able to gain in return.
Whether the cap goes up or not, these are numbers Dave Poile simply cannot ignore, and the chances of Shea Weber being a Predator for life seem almost certain at this point.