Nashville Predators should trade Shea Weber

Nov 7, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (6) looks on during the first period against the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (6) looks on during the first period against the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Trading Shea Weber would be the most difficult decision that the Nashville Predators have ever made. But it would be the right one.

Letting go of one of your best friends can be one of the toughest decisions in someone’s life. The decision can be much easier if both sides realize that moving on from each other is what’s best for both parties involved. The Nashville Predators and defenseman Shea Weber are going through a very similar situation right now.

Perhaps no player is more synonymous with his team than Shea Weber. He is still a very productive defenseman and you could make a very strong case that he’s the best defenseman over the past 30 years who hasn’t won a Norris Trophy. Shea Weber has been such a huge part of the Predators success since joining the team during the 2005-2006 season.

Weber has played in 724 regular season games and 45 playoff games for the Nashville Predators. He holds multiple franchise records and has finished in the top 10 in Norris Trophy voting in each of the past seven seasons. It’s undeniable that Weber has done a lot for the franchise. That’s not the issue at hand.

The issue at hand is what will Shea Weber do for the franchise in the future. The aging curve for defensemen suggests that the 30 year old defenseman’s best years are likely behind him. A deeper look into his Corsi and scoring chances over the past six seasons reveal an inconvenient truth: the decline of Shea Weber has already begun.

Shea Weber possession
Shea Weber possession /

Weber’s possession numbers are very concerning because that’s not typical of first pairing defensemen on good teams. Weber’s possession numbers aren’t a result of his relatively high defensive zone start percentage. He starts 32.7 percent of the faceoffs that he is on the ice for in the defensive zone, which is 58nd among defensemen with at least 500 minutes at even strength. Let’s compare him to some of the defensemen who see more defensive zone starts than Weber by looking at their even strength Corsi For percentage relative. That is measured by taking a player’s Corsi For percentage and subtracting it from their team’s Corsi For percentage without the player on the ice. Of the 58 defensemen who have more defensive zone starts than Weber, 34 of them have a better Corsi For percentage relative than Weber.

Despite his decline, Shea Weber still has value. He is generally regarded as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. The debate of whether or not that is true is irrelevant because even in a best case scenario where it is agreed that he is still one of the best defensemen in the NHL, it’s quite difficult to see him continuing to be one of the best moving forward. That’s why the Nashville Predators should move Weber now before he becomes undesirable.

The Predators had a perfect replacement for him in Seth Jones. However, the Predators (wisely I might add) traded Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen. That trade was wonderful for the Predators because it got them a true number one center. Number one centers don’t grow on trees and they rarely hit free agency. The Predators have another potential first pairing defenseman in Ryan Ellis.

Ryan Ellis possession stats
Ryan Ellis possession stats /

Ellis is still extremely young and is almost criminally cheap with a $2,500,000 cap hit through the 2018-2019 season. Compare his possession stats and production with other defenseman who aren’t on entry level contracts and it’s obvious to see that the Predators have one of the best bargains in the NHL. Roman Josi is a first pairing defenseman who has a cap hit of $4,000,000 through the 2019-2020 season. Josi and Ellis would form a first pairing that would count less against the cap combined than a good portion of the league’s first pairing defensemen. Josi has bad possession numbers, but they would likely get better with Ellis as his partner.

Weber has one of the largest cap hits in hockey at $7,857,143 per season. He’s going to get paid that until he retires or until the 2025-2026 season when Weber will be 40 years old. The Predators have the defensive depth to be able to replace Weber. Mattias Ekholm and Barrett Jackman could form a strong second pairing short-term while Anthony Bitetto and any number of the Predators depth defenseman would form a nice third pairing. Bitetto is a potential long-term option as a second pairing defenseman. If he can’t, the Predators would have the cap space to sign someone. Whoever they sign will likely have a far more reasonable contract than Weber.

Think of a hockey team like a business. The Predators are known to have a fairly strict budget. If you knew that your team relied on a strict budget, why would you keep an aging defenseman like Shea Weber when every sign points to Ellis doing at worst marginally better than Weber at less than one-third the price? Weber’s contract hampers the Predators chances of locking up young talent and bringing in free agents.

The Predators would likely need to sweeten the deal a little bit to trade Weber even if they did it today. Why? Because his contract will indefinitely become an albatross within the next three to five seasons. The Predators would likely have to throw in draft picks or possibly even retain a small portion of Weber’s cap hit, depending on what they would like to get in return for him.

The Predators and Shea Weber have had one heck of a run together. It deserves to be celebrated. However, it’s time for the Predators to put aside their obvious sentiment for Shea Weber and start looking at him realistically. There’s a good argument to be had for keeping in through this season because the Predators are gunning for a Stanley Cup. That’s an argument that’s certainly worth considering. But the Predators need to build for the future before the past haunts them. It’s time to trade Shea Weber.

All data unless otherwise indicated is from