As the clock hit zero and the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrated their second consecutive Stanley Cup victory, the opposite emotions enveloped the Montreal Canadiens.
Nowhere was that clearer than the face of Shea Weber.
Cameras caught Weber watching tearfully, and several Canadiens made a point of skating over to personally console him. It certainly felt more emotional than normal, and now there is an explanation as to why.
Over the years, Weber’s punishing style has taken pieces out of opponents, but also himself. He has enormous pain tolerance, and, as teammates have readily admitted, will play through things others simply can’t.
Unfortunately, we could be reaching the end of that situation. According to multiple sources — Weber, the Canadiens, the NHL and the NHLPA are doing their due diligence on the captain’s medical situation and future.
He’s been plagued with a left foot/ankle problem that has threatened his career. Weber missed two weeks with an injury there in February 2020 (true to form, he returned much sooner than expected). In March 2018, he had surgery to repair tendons in the area. There’s been a worry for some time this problem would become too much to handle.
He also played this post-season with an injured thumb that kept him out at the end of the regular season. We don’t know the extent of the injury but it is believed to be significant.
He had surgery for a meniscal tear in his right knee in July 2018.
Weber would be a huge loss on the ice and in the dressing room for Montreal. But, from a league standpoint, what would be at issue is his contract status. He has five seasons remaining, at an average annual value of $7,857,143.
That deal, signed via offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers, was heavily front-loaded. There is $12M of actual cash remaining. Nashville, which matched and was where Weber played the next four years, would have a “cap recapture” penalty of slightly more than $4.9M per season through 2025-26 if the defenceman retires.
Weber’s medical history creates a very legitimate case for him to go on long-term injured reserve if he cannot play again. But the league must make that determination, and the process is underway. Weber, agent Kevin Epp, the Canadiens, the NHL and NHLPA declined to comment.
Montreal probably wants clarity before the expansion draft (although they could simply leave him unprotected), but it’s uncertain if the process can be completed at that time.
Weber, who will be 36 next month, played his 1,000th NHL game this past season and won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2010 and 2014. Opposing forwards would be the only people who wouldn’t miss him.