When Shea Weber signed a 14-year, $110MM offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012, everyone knew right away that it would end badly. Yes, Weber was 27 years old and one of the top defensemen in the league, but the contract was top-heavy and carried a $7.86MM cap hit through his age-40 season. The chances of him playing to a level matching that value over a full 14 years was very slim. The Flyers knew this and specifically structured it in a way that they hoped would scare the Nashville Predators and frugal GM David Poile away – it didn’t. The Predators had just watched Ryan Suter walk in free agency and couldn’t afford to let Weber leave as well. They matched the deal and held on to their superstar defenseman.
When Weber was then traded to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban in 2016, the risk in Weber’s contract increased exponentially. The league had since banned all similarly long-term contracts – setting a limit of seven years on the open market and eight years for an extension – nevertheless the front-loaded, cap-circumventing type that Weber had signed. To combat teams continuing to front-load contracts, the NHL implemented salary cap recapture penalties. This system punishes teams for lengthening contracts with low-salary seasons in order to lower the cap hit during prime years by issuing a salary cap charge if the player retires prior to the end of the contract, thereby negating the years that lowered his cap hit. The calculation is the difference in total salary and total cap hit over the course of the contract with which the player played with the team, divided by the number of years remaining on the contract after retirement. In Weber’s case, the scenario looks like this:
Year Team Cap Hit Salary Difference
2012-13 NSH $7.857MM $14MM $6.143MM
2013-14 NSH $7.857MM $14MM $6.143MM
2014-15 NSH $7.857MM $14MM $6.143MM
2015-16 NSH $7.857MM $14MM $6.143MM
2016-17 MTL $7.857MM $12MM $4.143MM
2017-18 MTL $7.857MM $12MM $4.143MM
2018-19 MTL $7.857MM $6MM -$1.857MM
2019-20 MTL* $7.857MM $6MM -$1.857MM
2020-21 MTL* $7.857MM $6MM -$1.857MM
2021-22 MTL* $7.857MM $6MM -$1.857MM
2022-23 MTL* $7.857MM $3MM -$4.857MM
2023-24 MTL* $7.857MM $1MM -$6.857MM
2024-25 MTL* $7.857MM $1MM -$6.857MM
2025-26 MTL* $7.857MM $1MM -$6.857MM
So far over the course of Weber’s contract, both Nashville and Montreal have paid him far beyond what his cap hit would suggest. If Weber was to retire today, they would both be penalized. Nashville’s total penalty is $24.572MM, while Montreal’s is fluid. However, next season marks a drop for Weber below his cap number for the remaining eight years of his contract. Now, Weber is not going to retire this off-season. However, the chances that he retires early are very high. Earlier this week, it was reported that Weber had undergone a second off-season surgery and would likely be out until mid-season. Many expected when Weber was traded to Montreal that he still had many years left of strong play in him, but it appears that the deterioration of his body has already begun. Facing a decreasing salary for the remainder of his contract and concerns about his long-term health, it would be no surprise to see Weber retire in the next two years or so nevertheless by the end of the remaining eight years. By year, here is how the penalties would play out for both Nashville and Montreal:
If Weber retires before: Penalty per year – NSH Penalty per year – MTL
2019-20 $3.51MM $918K
2020-21 $4.1MM $762K
2021-22 $4.91MM $543K
2022-23 $6.14MM $215K
2023-24 $8.19MM None
2024-25 $12.29MM None
2025-26 $24.57MM None
Obviously, the Predators have a lot to lose if Weber retires early. It is very unlikely that Weber, if he makes it that far, is likely to retire with one or even two years left on his contract. At that point, it is likely the Canadiens would just place him on long-term injured reserve to finish his career, as has become a growing trend in the NHL. However, if Weber is unable to get over the injuries that have plagued him in Montreal, could he call it quits within the next few years and stick Nashville with a $3.5-$5MM yearly penalty? Absolutely. It is a scary possibility for the Predators and a situation worth watching as Weber battles back from injury yet again next season and beyond.
All salary and cap figures are approximations. Data courtesy of CapFriendly.com.
As a Flyers fan I never understood the thought process. Weber has elite at that point, something Philadelphia deeply needed after losing Pronger to an unfortunate I jury but the structure of the contract was a death sentence in it’s final years! I was glad it was matched, but always felt bad for whomever ended up with the long term headache.
I hope he’s not upset with the Predators organization. Wow
Thanks for making a Canadiens fan feel worse for the Subban trade. Didn’t think it was possible. There’s your “stud” Bergevin. What a mess this has become.
Berg has for sure broken what Montreal had going on. So many bad moves, even the Domi move has me wondering about his vision. Tough time to be a Habs fan, especially with Toronto doing so well. My longtime friend is a diehard Hab guy, lives in the Toronto area and gets grilled on a daily basis, tough sledding!!
Luongo has the same implications with Vancouver.
Both the NHLPA & club owners are to blame. They set up this system. There is a profit sharing system in place and revenue sharing. This is both sides making their own jail.
The cure? Easy. Have a higher salary floor. Abolish the ceiling. AZ,FLA,NYI etc all benefit from profit sharing. Raising the floor keeps the players quiet and strengthens weaker teams forcing them to spend. Also,have one player that the team DRAFTED not count toward the cap. Have another player be the FRANCHISE TAG( based on points per players around the league) and lastly a player who is a FREE AGENT (player not drafted by the team)doesn’t count against the cap. Teams stay competitive and can build from within. And each “spot” listed can be fluid,but opening night has to be reset.
Also,Entry Level contracts do not count against the cap until 10 games are played. Clubs can roster 60 players but designate the top 40 and cannot replace a spot unless injured.
Yes,I used to work for a former NHL Player Agent.