With the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21st, the Montreal Canadiens writers on LWOH are doing a series on which players the Habs should expose or protect from the Vegas Golden Knights. Here are the rules of the expansion draft if you need a refresh. For the sake of this article, the Habs will follow the seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie protection list. With Carey Price and Jeff Petry having no movement clauses in their contracts, they are automatically included in the protected list. Also here is a list of players on the Habs that are exempt from the expansion draft.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) May 1, 2017
Now, on to part one of our series:
Protect or Expose: Shea Weber
Highet/Weight: 6’4” 232 pounds
Cap Number: $7,857,143 – 8 years remaining
Why to Expose
There is no question that Shea Weber is a great defenseman in the NHL. That being said, he is 32 and has played a lot of hard hockey in his career. Weber plays a physical game and plays in all situations. The wear and tear on his body is beginning to show. While he had a good first season in Montreal, his 42 points was his lowest production in ten years. He also saw his average ice time drop to 25:04, his lowest since 2008-2009. Even before his trade to Montreal, his ice time had been dropping from 26:22 in 2014-2015 to 25:23 in 2015-2016. For all of Weber’s physical gifts, he is not a great puck moving defenseman nor does he pick up a lot of points at 5v5. He also does not drive his team’s possession; he had 51.3% Corsi in 2016-2017.
The other main reason to expose Weber is his contract. While his cap number isn’t too high, it’s the length that is an issue. Weber is on the down side of his prime as an NHL defenseman and his contract is singed until he is 40. This will become an issue for the Habs once his play significantly deteriorates and the Habs will still have his $7,857,143 cap hit on the books.
Why to Protect
Shea Weber is the unquestioned number one defenseman on the Habs. He plays all situations for the team and led the team in ice time. He also possesses the hardest shot in the league, which used to lead the Habs in power play goals, with 12. The Habs power play would be that much worse without its most dangerous weapon. He brings a physical element to the Habs backend that the team desperately needs. He is great at boxing out opposition players and keeping them away form goalie Carey Price. Leaving Weber unprotected would, potentially, create a void on the Habs defense with no top pair defenseman that can play long minutes against tough opposition.
There is a valid argument to be made for leaving Weber unprotected, however, this is kind of a no-brainer. Exposing and potentially losing Weber would create such a hole on the roster; the Habs would be in disarray. The next best defenseman would be 38-year-old UFA, Andrei Markov. Even in his declining state, Weber is far and away the Habs best defenseman and therefore must be protected.
On top of the on ice reason’s for protecting Weber, leaving him unprotected a year after making a highly publicized trade for him would be a terrible look. Fans as well as media would be asking why the trade even took place. It would also be seen as a signal from general manager Marc Bergevin that it was a mistake.
Tomorrow we will continue the series and examine if the Habs should protect or expose their captain, Max Pacioretty.
All stats courtesy of hockey-reference.com