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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Weber's Bousquet: Titan of the Interior

(Please See August 14 update below)

Shea Weber's contract strategy going into the arbitration was on display for a brief period when on Sunday TSN's Ryan Rishaug tweeted the following:

@TSNRyanRishaug Deleted Tweet: Briefs have been filed by both sides in preparation for Weber tuesday arbitration hearing. Weber camp will elect a 1 year decision.

The tweet was later deleted probably at the request of Weber's agent, Jarrett Bousquet (pictured at right) of Titan Sports Management, who is a fellow Blazers alumni and likely acquaintance of Rishaug going back to their WHL roots in Kamloops BC. Titan is based in Cranbrook BC. Some may speculate that Weber's choice of a one year over a two year award has some significance with regard to Weber's desire to stay in NSH or to move on. However, I don't believe this decision is an indicator of that since it can be interpreted both ways. 

The true reason likely has more to do with the fact this whole arbitration process was the preference of the Preds and not Weber's. Thus, it would stand to reason, the least impacting outcome on his future would be Weber's desired choice -- hence, the choice of one year over two years. 

Preds Blogger Dirk Hoag hit the nail on the head: "A 1-year arbitration ruling simply provides the maximum flexibility for Weber and the team going forward, leaving as little of their collective long-term future in the arbitrator's hands (where nobody wants it)...The leak almost certainly came from his camp, especially when you consider the likely connection between Rishaug and agent Jarrett Bousquet (both played for the WHL's Kamloops Blazers in the 90's)."

What better reveals Weber's intentions is this tweet today by Bousquet, posted during a break in Weber's arbitration hearing:

@TitanSports365 Titan Sports 365Just on a break at Shea Webers arbitration hearing. 1st time in NHL history a "team elected arbitration" has gone to hearing.

That statement may not be entirely correct since Vancouver Canucks goalie, Robert Luongo also followed through on club elected arbitration some years back when with the Florida Panthers. Nevertheless, Bousquet's point was not lost. By not giving into a short term contract before the arbitration, Nashville has ostensibly agreed to deal Weber's sometime within the next twelve months. 

Jim Diamond has sources telling him: "According to sources close to the negotiations, Weber was angered when the Predators elected to take him to arbitration. Weber believed that he was a candidate for an offer sheet, one that would ensure a big payday for the next several years. The team-elected arbitration prevented other teams from attempting to sign Weber to an offer sheet."

Weber knows you can't have your cake and eat it too -- at least not in NSH. This is part of his strategy to get out of town, and Poile knows it too (hence the team electing arbitration). The Preds are now convinced of something I've suspected over these last few months, Shea Weber is looking to set himself up for an eventual divorce from the Preds franchise. It could be that by going through with a hearing rather than just giving Weber a ~$6M one year deal, NSH is getting in their parting shot. Or it could be that Weber said to himself, "If you want arbitration, I'll give you arbitration!"

James Mirtle's insightful article today was particularly revealing: "Adding intrigue to the whole situation is the fact Weber dropped high-profile agent Don Meehan in favour of Titan Sports Management less than two months ago. Accoroding to several sources, Titan – run by two young agents from Cranbrook, B.C., in Kevin Epp and Jarrett Bousquet – offered Weber a rate less than half of Meehan’s Newport Sports to represent him. Two of Weber’s friends and Titan clients in Montreal Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges and the recently retired Scott Niedermayer both vouched for the agency, which helped him decide to make the switch." 

TitanSports365 Titan Sports 365The Titan players getting put through the paces at the Titan summer camp.

Titan is certainly pulling out all the stops to grow its client base. Pictured here are its stable of young players being put through the paces by Oliver.  

Mirtle's revelation aligns with the Kelowna Connection conspiracy I wrote about back on July 22. Which brings me to the third member of the Kelowna Connection, Blake Comeau, who Comeau received his own one year deal today.

Comeau is represented by Kurt Overhardt – founder and CEO of the KO Sports agency. KO has representives in Comeau's back yard as KO's development specialist, Joe Oliver is based out of nearby Vernon BC. Needless to say, at those rates look for Bousquest to also lure away Comeau by next summer, when the latter will likely be in a position to sign a long-term deal.

August 3, 2011 Update:
@WharnsCBCSPORTS Tim WharnsbyNashville's Shea Weber is awarded a $7.5 million salary arbitration.

Jarrett Bousquet just helped his client Shea Weber get $7.5M on a year deal. Mr. Bousquet, please take a bow. Why? Because that helps facilitate a trade, something we should all know by now was a real "consideration" in Weber's gut:

@CraigCustance Craig CustanceSpoke with an NHL exec who said the Preds have "no choice" but to consider trading Shea Weber following arb. ruling

The NHL executive continued by saying to Custance“You’ve got no choice now,” ... “The relationship is probably already damaged.” ... “I’m putting him on the market to see what I can get… What do you have to lose?”

August 14, 2011 Update:
Arbitrator Michel Picher's logic was revealed today on awarding Shea Weber $7.5M for the upcoming season on a one year deal. Picher listened to arguments from both sides and relied heavily on precedence in his ruling. In the case of NHL contract arbitration, the precedence utilized are deals signed by legitimately comparable players. Both sides had differing views on comparables. Nashville used used Keith Yandle and Dustin Byfuglien to come up with the $4.75M dollar figure they felt was fair compensation for one year.  While Weber's camp used entirely different set of players, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, to come up with their $8.5M number.

Picher's judgment on David Poile's comparables:
"Keith Yandle simply does not present as a player who can be responsibly compared to Mr. Weber...While Mr. Byfuglien, like Mr. Yandle, is an excellent player, he has logged only one season in the NHL as a defenseman."
Picher's views on Jarret Bousquet comparables:
"All that I can know is that in the coming season, Mr. Seabrook, who in my view has not achieved to the level of Shea Weber, will receive $7 million...I find Mr. Weber's position relative to Duncan Keith to be somewhat more problematic, [but] I am satisfied that Shea Weber should be placed slightly below Duncan Keith in the compensation market for the coming season."
Obvioiusly Picher thought Poile's comparables were laughable and thus chose to look more closely at Bousquet's. Though Picher felt Weber was closer to Keith than Seabrook in skill, he didn't feel Weber had yet accomnplished as much as Keith, and so Picher gave Weber slightly lower. Also, he didn't use Keith's cap hit to determine Weber's award ($7.5M). Instead, Picher used the actual salary and bonus numbers -- rightly so.

Therefore, if we use Duncan Keith's contract as a guide to determine the value of a long-term deal Shea Weber would sign next off-season (when he will be the same age as Keith, when the latter's long-term kicked in) with a cap ceiling team (for instance, like with Vancouver), we can assume that that contract will be around a dozen years in length, and worth $70M+ dollars. The deal will be front loaded yielding Weber in the neighborhood of $7 to 8M a year for the first five or six years, descending henceforth to produce a cap hit somewhere between $5 to 6M.

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