Shea Weber’s thumb injury that he played through during the playoffs wasn’t expected to cost him much time but it appears there are other injuries that will be an issue. Multiple reports came out on Wednesday night – one from TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie and another from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman – suggesting that Weber could miss all of next season due to lingering left foot and ankle issues.
It’s not the first time that this has been an issue for Weber. He had surgery in 2018 which cost him a significant chunk of that season and missed some time with it in 2020 as well. Clearly, the injury hasn’t fully gone away and he has simply been playing through it. That’s not a viable long-term solution and it appears that the time has come that it needs to be addressed surgically.
His absence will undoubtedly be a tough one to fill for the Habs on the ice. Even though he has slowed down in recent years, Weber and Jeff Petry have basically served as Montreal’s top two defenders for the majority of the last few years, giving them a strong one-two punch on the right side. That’s particularly notable considering that Habs have minimal depth on the right side of the back end behind those two which could prove to be problematic now. Alexander Romanov can play his off-side but when Dominique Ducharme took over behind the bench midseason, that was the end of that experiment so clearly, that’s not the preferred short-term solution.
From a salary cap standpoint, Weber will be eligible to be placed on LTIR which could enable them to go over the cap by up to his $7.857M cap hit. (Just how much they can go over depends on how close to the Upper Limit they are at the time of placement; the difference creates the LTIR pool.) However, that really only matters if he’s going to miss the entire season. If team doctors believe these reports aren’t quite true and that he could return at some point during the year, it’s quite unlikely that they’d spend all of that knowing they’d have to be cap-compliant before activating him. By all accounts, this sounds like a season-ender but it’s important to note the different scenarios.
From an expansion standpoint, this basically solidifies which way Montreal will go as Weber will be left unprotected (or potentially ruled exempt which Friedman’s report suggests is the current preference) and the Habs will be able to protect three defencemen. At first glance, those will likely be Petry, Joel Edmundson, and Ben Chiarot with Brett Kulak serving as the mandatory signed exposed player (one with 54 NHL games played over the last two seasons).
I’ll also address the cap recapture situation. If this is a career-threatening injury and Weber was to retire, both Nashville and Montreal would be hit with cap penalties (the Habs aren’t in the clear until after the 2022-23 season). If you’re interested, the calculations are here. Having said that, it doesn’t make much sense for Weber to retire as he’d be walking away from the rest of his salary. It’s not going to happen so there’s no need to worry about that element.
GM Marc Bergevin was already looking at a busy offseason as he looked to fill some holes on the roster. Now, it appears he’ll be tasked with trying to add an impact right-shot defender (there aren’t many free agents that fit the bill) and address the big leadership void that Weber’s absence will cause.