Hockey Interfering With the Boys of Summer
EAST LANSING, Michigan--The future of the Blue Jays, it's fair to say, is being played out at various levels of professional baseball, and on this glorious summer night it was being played out on Ladies Night at the Cooley Law School Stadium between the Lansing Lugnuts and South Bend Silverhawks.
That's A-Ball, Midwest League style, and while the chatter for much of this season has been about the prospects the Jays have at AA New Hampshire, Alex Anthopoulos and Co. are similarly pumped about four very good looking players at Lansing.
That group includes outfielder Marcus Knecht of Thornhill, the cleanup hitter for this 6-1 romp over South Bend. It also includes B.C.'s Michael Crouse, son of former B.C. Lion player Ray Crouse, and another outfielder, Jake Marisnick. Less highly regarded might be K.C. Hobson, son of Butch, the former Red Sox third baseman, but against the Silverhawks he flashed some mean leather at first base and hit an opposite field double.
We'll see how all this pans out, both this year under Lansing manager Mike Redmond, the former major league catcher who just finished playing last year in Cleveland, and beyond. But the possibilities added spice to a superb night at a minor league ballpark, never a waste of time.
Of course, hockey and business of hockey has a way of intruding at any moment and any time of year, and so it was on Wednesday with the news that Shea Weber had been awarded the largest arbitration stipend in NHL history, a one-year contract worth $7.5 million.
So what does the Weber award mean, aside from the fact that the 25-year-old will be the fifth highest paid D-man in the NHL next season?
Well, it means he's now getting paid market value for his services, much to the chagrin of the Preds who have never had to pay a player anything close to that salary before. It also means that he and the team have bought a year to see how the Predators deal with impending unrestricted free agents Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. Both Suter and Rinne are free agents July 1st, and Weber will know have the luxury of observing whether the Preds are serious about winning, which likely means finding ways to sign both Suter and Rinne.
Suter and Rinne, of course, will want to know what Weber's plans are, as well. Weber was always going to get paid - the $4.5 million arbitration offer of the Preds had nothing to do with reality - but the greater issue is how Nashville GM David Poile will juggle his finances to keep all three players, or how he'll choose between them.
Conceivably, by this time next summer all three players could be Predators for the long-term. Or Suter and Rinne may have signed elsewhere, and Weber may be heading into one last year in Tennessee.
Now, Weber can sit back and watch what Poile does before he commits. Or, theoretically, he can sign a multi-year deal and hope that convinces Suter and Rinne to stay as well.
The intrigue in Nashville, really, is just beginning.