An arbitrator has awarded Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber a one-year contract worth $7.5 million. The amount represents the largest such award in NHL history.
The Nashville captain had been seeking $8.5 million from his club, while the team countered with an offer of $4.75 million.
The award represents a significant raise over the $4.5 million that Weber earned while becoming a Norris Trophy finalist last season.
Under the terms of NHL arbitration rules, Weber is eligible to become a restricted free agent next summer. He is not eligible to become an unrestricted free agent until the summer of 2013.
The player and the team negotiated early on Tuesday morning, but could not strike a deal prior to the start of the 9am et hearing.
Predators general manager David Poile outlined why the two sides ended up at the arbitration table.
"We talked one year to longer, but couldn't agree on terms, length or structure," Poile said in a conference call. "Obviously that's a little disappointing. That could be viewed as a failure, or maybe as an opportunity. I'm optimistic we can get a long-term deal.
"What's done is done. It's up to me and our staff to surround Shea with core players. I'm well aware we need a couple of forwards to take us to a level we need to be to compete for the Cup."
Weber, 25, has played all six of his NHL seasons with the Predators. The resident of Sicamous, B.C. had 16 goals and 32 assists while playing all 82 games for the Predators last season. The 6'4", 234 lb defenceman also contributed five points in 12 playoff games while leading his team to the second round of the post-season for the first time in franchise history.
"Both sides worked hard to get something longer," explained Weber's agent, Jarrett Bousquet, to the Nashville Tennessean. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get to an agreement, so we just needed help with the decision.
"We were consistent in our methods that he wants to remain a Predator. He loves it in Nashville. He loves the fans. He thinks they're the best in the NHL, and he has a place there," Bousquet added. "It's home for him, and from the beginning to now he always remained that he wanted to be a Predator."
In the only other case to go before the arbitrator so far this summer, defenceman Chris Campoli and the Chicago Blackhawks agreed on an award of $2.5 million to allow the Blackhawks to walk away from the award and make Campoli an unrestricted free agent. The hearing last month was moved up to expedite the ruling.
Forward Blake Comeau was scheduled to be the final arbitration hearing of the summer on Thursday, but he agreed to a new deal with the New York Islanders late on Tuesday.
Twenty-two of the 24 players who originally filed for salary arbitration came to terms with their clubs prior to having their scheduled hearings.