Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber’s Potential Cap Recapture Penalty Amended For Nashville Predators

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - FEBRUARY 18: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - FEBRUARY 18: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The NHL had an odd cap recapture penalty in the previous CBA. It has been amended to reduce potential impact in the future.

The Montreal Canadiens have signed a few enormous contracts in the past few years. None have been bigger than the eight-year $84 million deal that Carey Price signed three summers ago. His $10.5 million cap hit for the past two seasons has been among the highest in the league and it still the highest among goaltenders.

Still, the Habs haven’t been close to the cap in the past three years anyway, so it hasn’t forced them to make any difficult roster decisions. Since the league initiated a cap system in 2005, teams have been forced to think a little harder about every dollar they spend on players.

One trick that teams used to get around that hurdle was to tack on extra years at the end of a player’s contract with little pay. Since the cap hit is the average salary of a player during his contract, this would greatly reduce the cap hit for the duration of the deal.

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This is exactly what the Philadelphia Flyers did when they signed Shea Weber to an offer sheet in 2012. Weber had been with the Nashville Predators since he was drafted in 2003, but he was a restricted free agent and the Flyers tried to pry him away from a smaller market team by giving him lots of cash up front, followed by a handful of years far below his average salary at the end.

Weber signed a 14-year, $110 million contract that the Predators eventually matched. This gave him a cap hit of just over $7.5 million since that would be his average salary for the following 14 years. However, that’s not how the actual cash would be handed out. Weber would earn $14 million in each of the first four years of the deal, followed by two years at $12 million, four years at $6 million, one year at $3 million and in the final three years he gets just $1 million each season.

So, they basically tacked on an extra fours year at very little pay, just so the cap hit would come down. Weber’s average salary over the first ten years of the deal is over $10 million. So, to bring the cap hit down to a more digestible number, they gave him another $6 million over an additional four years, keeping him under contract until he is 40.

The league decided during the last CBA that they didn’t like these deals, and decided to bring in a cap recapture penalty for teams that signed players to this type of contract. The interesting thing here is Weber signed the contract with the Flyers, but since the Predators matched the offer, they technically signed him which meant the cap recapture penalty would be issued to Nashville.

The way a recapture penalty works, is teams are given a dead cap hit if the player retires before he reaches the end of his contract. Here is how it would have broken down for Weber:

With the NHL and NHLPA agreeing to extend the CBA earlier this week, they have also amended this cap recapture penalty. The penalty has only been issued once, with the Vancouver Canucks being slapped with a cap hit of just over $3 million for the next three years after Roberto Luongo retired.

The change to the rule would not have helped Vancouver at all, but it simply spreads out what could have been an enormous single season penalty over a few years. Basically, a penalty can not be larger than the player’s cap hit was.

So, if Weber were to retire after the 2024-25 season, the Predators would still be hit with a $24.5 million dollar penalty. However, instead of having to tear apart their core to clear that kind of money for one year, they can spread it out over four seasons, with the largest penalty in a given year the same as Weber’s current cap hit.

Hopefully, Weber continues to play well for the next six seasons, and the Habs don’t have to worry about him retiring or not. However, it could get to the point where his cap hit is an impediment and he is no longer an effective NHL defender. If so, the likelihood that he could retire early and give up the last year or two where he would only lose out on $1 million per season just got greater.

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It is still a long shot, but its now possible the Habs could convince him to retire and give him a job as an ambassador, or advisor or development coach. That way he could still earn his money but the Habs would have way more space under the salary cap, while not completely destroying his old team in the process.