Shea Weber brought so much joy to Nashville Predators fans over many seasons, but now he might bring so much pain. The long-time captain was one of Nashville’s first legit superstars and he will always have a special place in the hearts of the Smashville faithful, which is why the recent news of his injury hurts on two levels.

Weber is expected to miss the next four-to-six weeks with a left ankle sprain. The announcement of the injury led to speculation that the defenseman’s season is over, which then led to questions about his career.

Related: Predators’ Reasons for Optimism

Predators fans will undoubtedly want to see the player who poured everything he had in to the organization continue his career. Most former players are welcomed back to the Music City, unless their name is Ryan Suter. But Weber always was, and probably always will be, a fan favorite. When he scored against the Predators in Nashville in his first season removed from the club, the crowd cheered, that’s how much they love Weber.

Shea Weber (Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Then there’s another side to why Weber’s potential early retirement would hurt the Predators. If he hangs up his skates before his contract is up, the Predators would receive a recapture penalty, which would put the team in a real salary cap jam. Re-what penalty? Recapture penalty. Here’s a brief overview of what it is and why it exists.

The Cap Recapture Penalty

The cap recapture was supposed to dissuade teams from working around the salary cap under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with front-loaded contracts, as Weber’s was.

Before questioning general manager David Poile’s decisions, know that it wasn’t entirely his fault. The Predators matched an offer sheet extended by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. The deal paid Weber $14 million in actual salary in each of the first four seasons he was in Nashville. That total salary eventually peters out to just $1 million in the last three seasons of his deal. Such contracts have since be outlawed.

The cap recapture is calculated by finding the difference between the total salary and the total cap hit over the length of the contract, then divide that by the number of years left on the contract.

Weber played for the Predators for the first four seasons of his 14-year, $110 million contract. Before being traded, the Predators paid Weber $56 million in total salary, with his total cap hit being a little over $31.42 million during those four seasons. In a worst-case scenario, the 34-year-old retires in the last year of the deal and the Predators are liable for $24.571 million.

Shea Weber Montreal Canadiens
Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Poile is no stranger to handing out megadeals, just look at Nashville’s current contracts, which could add to the headache. The Predators would be allowed to spread the amount owed under the recapture cap over the remaining length of the contract. So, should Weber choose early retirement, the number of years remaining on the deal will determine the hit per season. The Montreal Canadiens would also owe until 2021-22, but below is what the Predators would owe by season.

  • 2019-20 – $3,510,204
  • 2020-21 – $4,095,238  
  • 2021-22 – $4,914,286
  • 2022-23 – $6,142,857
  • 2023-24 – $8,190,476
  • 2024-25 – $12,285,714
  • 2025-26 – $24,571,428

The Predators’ Problem

Should this nightmare become a reality, it would alter the Predators’ future. The 2025-26 season is a long time from now and there aren’t many players that the Predators have under contract until then. However, the players they have are significant. Matt Duchene’s contract is up after 2025-26 and Roman Josi’s deal runs until 2027-28. Obviously, both players carry fairly large annual average values (AAV).

Of course, the salary cap will have increased by that point, but by how much is anyone’s guess. However, one thing is certain, a little over $41.6 million tied up in two players and a cap penalty is going to hurt.

If Weber retires in 2022-23, it wouldn’t be taken lightly. Calling it quits just four seasons before his contract expires would result in a Predators’ cap hit of just over $6 million which, let’s be honest, is a top-six forward. For perspective, Filip Forsberg’s AAV is also $6 million.

Shea Weber Montreal Canadiens
Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Again, assuming that the Predators don’t make a trade beforehand, in 2022-23, the significant players on the Predators roster along with their AAV’s are:

  • Ryan
    Johansen ($8 million)
  • Matt
    Duchene ($8 million)
  • Kyle
    Turris ($6 million)
  • Viktor
    Arvidsson ($4.25 million)
  • Roman
    Josi ($9.059 million)
  • Ryan
    Ellis ($6.25 million)

Not to mention that the Predators might want to re-sign Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro and Juuse Saros.

So, yeah, Weber retiring early would not be good for the Predators. It might mean the team has to let players walk in free agency, trade significant pieces, or lay low when it comes to big game hunting during the offseason. For a team chasing a Cup, like the Predators, this one would sting.

Related: Predators’ Trade Deadline Decisions

However, there is some good news. The Canadiens released a statement on Feb. 12, which said in part, that Weber was re-evaluated by an orthopedic specialist on Wednesday and he is expected to make a full recovery.

If the Sicamous, BC native feels that his body is still up for the grind, then there was some unnecessary panic. But, when you’re facing a potential $24.5 million penalty against your cap, it’s difficult to rest easy.

Weber’s a competitor. Predators fans experienced that firsthand during the former captain’s time in Nashville. He doesn’t have a Stanley Cup yet either, so you can bet that will be on his mind when he decides whether or not he wants to return, if that decision is even up to him.

Related: Canadiens’ Top Line Success Comes From Weber

On the
other hand, Weber’s already had two significant surgeries recently, one to
repair a torn meniscus and another to repair a torn tendon in his left foot. He
has also missed 80 games over the past two seasons. The father of two will have
to consider his health in relation to his future off the ice. Sometimes that
can be more persuading than fighting for the common childhood dream of lifting
the 35-pound piece of silverware high in the air.

If it comes to a decision of playing career or future health, no one can blame Weber for walking away, no matter how high the cost may be.