Yesterday, Nashville Predators defenseman and pending free agent Shea Weber was awarded with a one-year contract worth $7.5 mil after his arbitration hearing. When any player signs a contract with that kind of cap hit, people wil always say that it's an overpayment and the team paying that kind of contract is foolish. To justify spending that kind of money on one player, that certain player has to be in an elite class for his position. In my opinion, Weber fits into that class and is arguably a top-three defenseman in the league right now. This is why I do not have a problem with Weber receiving this kind of salary and why I think he will be worth it.
Let's compare Weber's stats over the last four seasons with some other top-level defensemen:
|Year||Player||OZ%||OZ% Fin||OZ% Delta|
OZ% = Offensive zone start percentage, OZ% Fin = Percent of shifts finished in the offensive zone, OZ% Delta = Difference between draws started and finished in the offensive zone.
Here are Weber's stats compared with other defensemen in the NHL who have won or been nominated for the Norris Trophy in recent years and most of them have contracts with a cap hit of over $6 mil or at least close to it (Doughty being the exception). Weber's consistently been able to get the puck moving in the right direction and prevent chances in his own end despite starting most of his shifts there. He also appears to be getting better every season as his OZ% rate has been decreasing every season and the difference between the amount of draws he finishes in the offensive zone is getting higher. Last year was his best season yet and close to fellow Norris-candidate Zdeno Chara (who should have won that award in my eyes). Weber's 10 goals and 31 points at even strength also look a lot better when you consider that he doesn't get a lot of easy minutes.
You remember this graph, right? If not, I'll refresh your memory. The x-axis is the player's offensive zone start percentage and the y-axis is the player's corsi relative to quality of competition, it basically shows how tough the defenseman's assignments are. The far left is where the toughest assignments are and Weber was in that area for the last two seasons. One change I made from the last graph is that the bubbles show how a player performed possession wise. The larger the bubble is, the higher their relative corsi rating was. If the bubble is white that shows they had a negative corsi rating. Weber finished well on the positive end of the spectrum in every season except for 2007-08 season when he was only 21 years old. He blew away his competition in 2008-09 but he wasn't getting the toughest assignments on the team. Dan Hamhuis and Greg Zanon received much tougher minutes than he did but the following year, with Zanon gone, he outperformed Hamhuis by a lot and played on about the same level the following year. He was playing similar minutes to Chara the last two seasons and he's about nine years younger than him. The fact that he was able to put up points at even strength and play well territorially while taking on that kind of competition tells you a lot about how great Weber is. He completely deserves to be paid top money for a defenseman. Whether or not Nashville can pay him that kind of money is another question, though.