Earlier today it was reported that Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens injuries from last year could keep him out for the 2021-22 season, if not longer.
I’m hearing the @CanadiensMTL won't protect Shea Weber for the expansion draft. Following the latest medical evaluations, he could miss all of next season. If not more.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) July 14, 2021
Later it was revealed in the post-season medical examination that not only was Shea Weber injured, but the injuries may also be career-threatening. The list includes injuries to his thumb, his knee, and his ankle. The ankle and knee injuries are the most concerning as he has had surgery to repair damage in both locations before. As recently as February 2020 Weber missed two weeks with an injury to the same ankle.
Earlier in the year, Nick Kyprios tweeted about rumours that Weber had reinjured his ankle. A week later, he apologized for the “early report” he made.
Sources say Shea Weber injury has his season likely over and his future in question. Told injury is related to foot that was surgically repaired in 2018. While waiting for swelling to alleviate and further confirmation, surgery seemed unavoidable going into this week. @nhl #weber
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) February 12, 2020
Concerns about Weber’s ankle, at least, seem to have been ongoing for a few months.
What This Means Now
In the immediate future, what Weber’s status is for the Seattle Kraken picks is going to likely be impossible to determine. There is very little time for a second examination for the NHL to officially rule whether the injuries are career-threatening or not. With Shea Weber injured badly enough his career is at risk, he is automatically protected. If not, then the team will have to determine whether to protect him or not by Saturday.
Obviously, this has a large effect on the Canadiens protected list. Weber does not have any contractual protections, so it would be up to the team. Jeff Petry does, leaving just two more spots available if Montreal goes with a 7/3/1 format as expected.
What This Means Short-Term
The easiest thing to do right now is to compare his injuries to Nikita Kucherov‘s. There was prolonged criticism from fans and other teams as the Tampa Bay Lightning gained their best – and most expensive – skater just in time for the playoffs. Having Kucherov’s $9.5 million on the Long Term Injured Reserve list helped the team’s salary cap situation immensely.
There are substantial differences between the two situations. The 28-year old Kucherov is playing on a team that doesn’t rely on him to make the playoffs. The Lightning finished their season with a 15-point lead over the fifth-place Dallas Stars. There was very little chance that Tampa wasn’t making the playoffs.
Montreal, on the other hand, is in tough to return to the second season despite their Final appearance. For 2021-22, they share a division with Tampa Bay, the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins. Weber was their top-minute defenceman in the playoffs, and for good reason. He missed eight games and the team was nearly displaced by the Calgary Flames. Missing a full season makes their task that much harder.
What This Means Long-Term
This is the hard part. Shea Weber injured long-term, even to the point of never playing again, is a massive blow. He is still a very good defenceman but at 35 years old injuries are catching up. Even if he does take a full year to recover, he’ll be a year older. Retiring is out of the question for him, but if he does there is also a massive cap recapture penalty Nashville will have to deal with. It’s not as bad as having the full amount due immediately, but it will still be nearly $5 million until 2025-26 (the length of the deal).
But as far as Montreal is concerned, they will need to replace their captain who is an effective defender playing 22+ minutes a night. Kaiden Guhle isn’t suddenly going to gain a decade of NHL experience in the off-season. They can try to use the money they are saving from Weber’s deal to land a big fish. The most obvious target is unrestricted free agent Dougie Hamilton, who is going to cost a lot, flat cap or not. But Hamilton can demand a long-term deal, and he’ll get it. Should Montreal manage to catch him, what do they do if Weber returns? Having $21 million tied up in three defencemen – including Petry’s $6.25 here – is just bad math.
The Montreal Canadiens have already had an interesting month. Much of their future, possibly for years to come, will be determined in the next three days.
MONTREAL, QC – FEBRUARY 02: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber (6) waits for a face-off during the Vancouver Canucks versus the Montreal Canadiens game on February 2, 2021, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)