The message from both Nashville Predators management and from captain Shea Weber himself struck the same theme and seemed sincere: All is well that ends well.
Never mind the acrimony that emanated from Webers camp from the time he signed a 14-year, 110-million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers until Tuesday afternoon roughly 33 hours before the Predators deadline to match the deal or let Weber go when Nashville finally announced it would match the deal. During that span, one of Webers representatives said more than once that the player wanted to be a Flyer. Yet on Wednesday, Weber and Preds management let it be known that those words were simply business and not much else.
Last year when Weber was awarded a one-year, 7.5-million contract through arbitration, the conference call that ensued with general manager David Poile and Weber seemed awkward at best. And when All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter departed via free agency to sign with Minnesota on July 4, Poiles anger was palpable in a conference call in both his words and his tone.
Not so on Wednesday. On a televised press conference, Poile appeared calm in saying, effectively, that the process was just business.
Ive been through this before, Poile said. Its the business of hockey and we just finished the business of hockey. A players got to do what a players got to do, his agents got to say what hes got to say . . . I have no second thoughts at all that hes not going to be as good as hes ever been before. All of this will be put behind us. Its business. I dont even want to hear about it. I dont even need to talk about it. Ill never ask Shea about how his summer was up to this point. Hes now with us for 14 years.
And thats the bottom line. Weber sung the same tune while at once distancing himself from his agents specific remarks while validating them for the job they did to get him the contract. At one point, he was asked if he second-guessed what they did at all. He said no and, really, with 68 million in bonuses headed his way over the next six seasons, what could he possibly have to second-guess?
I guess thats that was his business side of it, his feelings, I guess, Weber said of his agents comments. Like I said, I was never a part of any of that. I didnt make any statements publicly. I love of the city of Nashville, I love the fans. I love my teammates and, like I said before, its a very positive thing that the ownership has stepped up and shown that theyre going to be a team thats going to spend to the cap and bring guys in and be a successful team.
In the time between when Weber signed the offer sheet and when some of those comments were made, the public sentiment in Nashville has been that he would have to mend fences. From the indications on Wednesday, consider them mended. Certainly, he wont have to mend them with coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz was the one who informed Weber that the Preds would match the offer sheet. Both men make their summer homes in Kelowna, B.C. So Trotz delivered the news in person and celebrated with Weber and his fiance. The coach said, his words dripping in sarcasm, that they shared a glass of ice water together.
As for Webers teammates, they apparently were most concerned that he would be back. They understand as well as anyone how the off-ice game is played. Poile said he received calls from Hal Gill, Mike Fisher and Chris Mason attesting to Webers value both on the ice and in the leadership department, seemingly imploring the Preds to bring the captain back. Webers teammates were going to bat for him.
About the only hint of resentment came from Poile and Trotz in reference to a comment by one of Webers agents that the team might be in a rebuilding mode since Suter departed. The same team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs each of the last two seasons is largely intact, minus Suter. Its a loss, but it wouldnt seem to propel the Preds into a rebuilding phase, not with Pekka Rinne (a finalist two years straight for the Vezina Trophy, given to the leagues top goalie) and almost the entire rest of the team back.
I didnt like that word or phrase, Poile said.
Weber quashed that notion while noting that most of the departures were players the team acquired at the trading deadline or beyond Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Radulov.
I dont think were rebuilding at all, he said. I mean, you look at our team compared to last year, yeah, were young, but I think we lost Andrei Kostitsyn, lost Radulov, but they werent additions until late in the season. I mean, Suters pretty much the big name. Now its time for someone on the back end, someone young, (Roman) Josi, (Dan Ellis), (Kevin Klein), to step up and play more minutes and I think weve got guys who are capable of doing that, so its an exciting time. I think were a young team, but were very talented and were not far away at all.
The last question Weber took on a conference call asked him whether, owing to the length of the contract, it felt like a marriage. His humor showed his comfort with the situation.
I dont know, whats the divorce rate? he quipped. Thats the answer to that question. I dont want to be seeing any divorces. Its a good feeling because its where I started. Obviously, they gave me the chance from the beginning and it would be really exciting to win in this city. The fans are very passionate, its a good hockey city and I cant wait to get the season going.
That doesnt sound like someone who wishes he were in another city for the rest of his career.