Monday, July 9, 2012

How Much is Shea Weber Worth?

Shea Weber Predators
If you could sign the best defenceman in the NHL, how much would you be willing to pay? That's the question many GMs are asking themselves as the possibility of Shea Weber becoming an unrestricted free agent is only one year away.

The Nashville Predators just lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild and have to immediately work on signing Weber to a long-term contract. But without his defence partner, which certainly hurts Nashville's chances of contending, is Weber committed to staying with the Predators?

Last year Weber signed a one-year deal as a restricted free agent to determine whether the team was committed enough to winning. Well, GM David Poile re-signed Pekka Rinne to a massive deal, brought in rentals at the deadline, and made a strong pitch to keep Suter.

Accordingly, if Weber signs a one-year deal this year he will essentially be telling the Predators it wasn't enough, he's leaving.

With that possibility, rival GMs are asking the same question that Poile is asking: How much is Weber worth?

The best comparison for Weber is Zdeno Chara. They are two of the premier defencemen in the league and there are lots of similarities between the two. Both are huge, physical specimens that play a dominating shutdown game. Each has a cannon for a shot and are undisputed No. 1 defencemen capable of playing big minutes in all situations. Weber’s agent will undoubtedly point to Chara as the basis of a new contract.

Both broke into the NHL at 20 years of age and, through their first six seasons in the league, the statistics surprisingly aren’t even close. Chara played 459 games, averaging 22:48 minutes of ice time a night, and tallied 41 goals and 91 assists for 132 points. He was plus-31 and was nominated for the Norris Trophy once and was named to the NHL’s First All-Star team once.

In comparison, Weber played 480 games, logging 22:46 minutes a night, and scored 99 goals and 164 assists for 263 points—that’s almost twice as many points as Chara. He was plus-44 and was nominated for the Norris Trophy twice and was named to the NHL’s First All-Star team twice. Weber has already surpassed the 15-goal, 40-point barrier five times, whereas Chara only managed to best that mark once in his first six seasons.

Chara became an unrestricted free agent at the age of 29, one year older than Weber will be when he hits the market next year. Weber could hit unrestricted free agency at an earlier age and with a better track record than Chara when he inked his deal.

When Zdeno Chara signed as a free agent with the Bruins for $37.5 million over 5 years in 2006, the cap hit in the first season was 17 percent of the $44 million cap. Under the $70.2 million proposed cap for next season that would amount to nearly $12 million.

Combining the two contracts Chara signed with the Bruins, the total reaches $83 million over 12 years. Obviously, thanks to the Suter contract, the minimum it will cost to sign Weber is $98 million over 13 years. But using Chara as a comparison, it’s clear that Weber deserves much more than this minimum.

To determine Weber's worth I looked at the percentage of the cap Chara’s contract took up each season and calculated the amount of money that would have been if the cap were $70.2 million like it is today.

Cap Limit
Cap Hit
% of cap hit
Cap hit today

If the cap hit stays at $70.2 million next year the first seven years of Zdeno Chara’s contracts (including next season) will have been worth $64.27 million. That’s an average of $9.18 million per season. If the cap goes down and stays at the level it was this year, $64.3 million, the first seven years of Chara’s contracts would have been worth $59.47 million, or approximately $8.5 million a season.

To create a more accurate contract comparison I combined both of Chara’s contracts and used the average cap hit spread across the 12 years, $6.91 million. This better replicates what a long-term deal would look like since years are tacked on the end of the deal to lower the cap hit. Under these parameters, Chara’s contract through seven years has been worth $55.93 million, or $8 million a year (based on a $64.3 million cap), and $60.41 million, or $8.65 million a year (based on a $70.2 million cap).

What this means is that on the open market Weber is worth between $8 and $9.2 million a year. Even using the most conservative estimate, Weber is looking at a free agent deal of $104 million over 13 years.

Weber is worth all $104 million, maybe even more. Through his first six seasons he has been at least as good as, if not better, than Chara was over the same stage of his career. Despite the cost, Chara's contract has turned into one of the best free agent signings of all-time. If Shea Weber hits the open market next year, teams will hope that making an equally large investment produces as big of a dividend.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...