The Nashville Predators have opted to go the arbitration route with franchise restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber, and the main reason they are doing this is to block other teams from making contract offers. It means that the team has to hurry and sign him to a long term extension before arbitration begins, otherwise Weber will be an unrestricted free agent in 2 years and will likely be leaving town. Every team in the NHL would love to have this player, and thus demand for his skill set is very high. Going to arbitration is very smart on the Preds behalf because when you look at the list of defensemen under 30 who scored at least 40 PTS last season, none is making more than $6 million per season. Duncan Keith is signed for 12 more years at $5.5 million, Brent Seabrook 5 years for $5.8 million, and Dustin Byfuglien is signed for 5 more years at $5.2 million per season.
Is Nashville willing to sign Weber to a 12 year contract for $72 million dollars? We'll find out in the next few weeks, but that's about what it will take and what a team like the Red Wings would offer (especially if Lidstrom retires). Going to arbitration might make Weber a free agent sooner, but it guarantees that no other team can tender an offer and there are a number of teams that would tender very large offers. The Preds are taking Shea to arbitration as much to protect him from open market bidding as to solidifying the long term interests of their franchise. They would have the right to match competing offers, but I suspect they can't afford to. This franchise was very nearly financially dead just 3 years ago.
My dream of Shea Weber wearing a Red Wings jersey next season is officially dead.