With reports coming from various media outlets that the Predators may have made an error with filing the qualifying offers for their restricted free agents, the Shea Weber arbitration filing may have been the luckiest move of the offseason.
Reportedly, there were “technical issues” with the qualifying offers of Cal O’Reilly, Matt Halischuk, Sergei Kostitsyn and Nick Spaling. If the Predators had not filed for preliminary arbitration for Shea Weber last week, his name would have most assuredly been included in that list.
If the Predators indeed did not file the qualifying offers on time, O’Reilly, Halischuk, Kostitsyn and Spaling could be granted unrestricted free agent status as of this Friday, July 1. The free agents would be able to sign with any team and the Predators would be powerless to stop it. Restricted free agency not only gives the Predators the ability to match any offer thrown at a restricted free agent’s way, it also provides the Predators with compensation (in the form of a draft pick) if the Predators decide not to match the offers from other teams. In addition, restricted free agency manages to keep the salaries of those free agents down.Unrestricted free agency…well…it’s unrestricted – players sign wherever they want and the Predators get nothing in return.
Should the reports be true, the most likely outcome is that the Predators hurry to re-sign O’Reilly, Halischuk, Kostitsyn and Spaling at inflated values so that they avoid becoming unrestricted free agents. The Chicago Blackhawks ran into a similar situation in 2009 and were forced to resolve it in that manner. Otherwise, there stands a good chance that the players would become UFAs on Friday.
Had the Predators not filed arbitration with Shea Weber and then not submitted a qualifying offer in a timely fashion, he would be in the same boat as the other four potentially are. However, since Weber is already considered “in the arbitration process”, not only can he not be signed to an offer sheet by another team (as this is not allowed during the arbitration process), but it means that the Predators have made his qualifying offer in a timely fashion.
In other words, there stands a chance that Shea Weber could have been an unrestricted free agent on Friday if not for pure luck.