While British Columbia is a hotbed for silly homegrown-star-wants-to-come-home pipe dreams — the foremost of these being the annual “Joe Sakic to finish his career in Vancouver” rumours of yore — it should be noted that sometimes these dreams do come true.
In 2006, fans coveted unrestricted free agent Willie Mitchell of Port McNeill, and he took a little less to play here. Then, when he left town in 2010, the Canucks replaced him in free agency with the equally coveted Dan Hamhuis of Smithers, who also took less.
In short, there’s precedent for the “Shea Weber to Vancouver” murmurs. But there isn’t much reason to them.
Granted, these are awesome murmurs. Weber would be a perfect fit for the Canucks. (Sure, he’d be a near-perfect fit on every team, what of his size, toughness, and Norris-level all-situation skillset, but he’d be perfectly perfect in Vancouver.)
Good as the Canucks’ powerplay has been this year, it hasn’t been quite as slick since Christian Ehrhoff left, and none of the guys Newell Brown has used to replace Ehrhoff — Mikael Samuelsson, Sami Salo, Alex Burrows — have fully cemented themselves as the right guy. Weber, on the other hand, would make the best powerplay in the league better.
The penalty kill, too, would benefit from Weber’s presence. When Andrew Alberts is out of the lineup, the Canucks have trouble clearing the crease. Weber could do the job without being the even-strength liability Alberts can be.
And, speaking of even-strength, Weber would likely be paired with Alex Edler 5-on-5, a glorious thought. Edler is a left-handed left defenceman best complemented by a right-handed right defenceman like Weber. While the Swedish blueliner saw some success with the left-handed Ehrhoff, who ably transitioned to the right side, guys capable of making that shift are rare. (Keith Ballard’s been unable to do it, for instance.)
Sami Salo, a natural right-sider, has been the only successful candidate this season, but it’s scary when Salo is your only option. When he’s hurt, as he presently (and often) is, Edler is destitute. Weber solves that problem, plus he makes the pairing more defensively sound than any tandem with Alex Edler has ever been.
Weber’s ideal fit is, of course, one reason why the pipe dream has persisted for so long. But, while the dream is so sexy I have to turn my Family Filter off to have it, the chances that it becomes a reality are unbelievably slim.
Let’s ignore the cap implications. You have to know by now that, if cap space was the only problem, Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman would figure it out. But it’s far more than that.
First, while David Poile may have to move one of his two stud defenseman, it likely won’t be Weber. While there are some that say Ryan Suter’s the real star of the Nashville blueline and the one Poile should work to hold onto, that’s hardly the case in the Nashville market, where Weber’s the big scorer, the Norris nominee, the one with the booming slapshot, the captain, and the face of the franchise. You have to imagine that the last thing Poile wants to do on the heels of the Predators’ first-ever trip to the second round of the playoffs is alienate the fanbase by trading away the marquee guy.
Additionally, Weber’s an RFA this year, not a UFA, so the need to get him locked up prior to July 1 isn’t quite as pressing. Suter, on the other hand, can go where he pleases. If the Predators traded Weber, they could wind up losing both guys if they fail to get Suter signed by the summer.
More than likely then, Suter’s the one on the way out, and, while he’s almost as desirable to many teams, he’s less desirable to Vancouver. As a left defenceman, there’s no guarantee that he’d be able to play with Edler, and the last thing the Canucks need is to give up assets aplenty for another well-compensated, left D-man that doesn’t seem to fit in their top four. Granted, Suter’s a much better player than Ballard, but it’s still a big risk.
And even if Poile opts to move Weber, not Suter, Vancouver is an unlikely destination. The two teams are in the same conference (and, thanks to the NHLPA, they will be next year as well). By all accounts, Weber has a genuine desire to play in Vancouver, but Poile is under no obligation to send him here, and the Nashville GM has to know that a Weber/Edler pairing is formidable. The last thing he’s going to do is help the Canucks put it together, especially when Nashville’s road to the Stanley Cup Final is going to be through Vancouver for the foreseeable future.
In short, not only would the Canucks have to pay a pretty penny to outbid other teams if Weber became available — they’d have to overbid even more to overpower Poile’s good sense about trading to a rival. That in mind, I simply don’t think Poile is going to be sold on a package of Mason Raymond, Keith Ballard, and a pick.
Meanwhile, the rumours that Suter could be headed to the Philadelphia Flyers make a lot more sense. The Flyers have lost left defenceman and captain Chris Pronger for the year, GM Paul Holmgren has already shown a willingness to trade just about anybody to get what he wants, the team has some expendable assets the Predators might want, and the two franchises have worked together on a number of blockbuster deals in the past.Tags: cold and unsexy rationality, Edler, pipe dreams, Predators, shea weber