The Nashville Predators have decided to match the 14 year $110 million offer sheet made to their captain and star player Shea Weber. After losing Ryan Suter earlier this month to the Minnesota Wild, and Alex Radulov to the KHL (again), losing Weber as well would be too much of a hit for the franchise’s fans to bear. The Flyer’s had hoped that Weber’s heavily front loaded contract would be enough to get the cash strapped Predators to shy away. It did not.
Weber is quite simply one of the best defencemen in the NHL, and the Predators had to stop the bleeding somehow. The comparisons to the continual loss of talent experienced by the Montreal Expos in their later years would have been made here should they allow Weber to leave. The compensation of 4 first round picks (likely to be late picks looking at what Philly’s lineup would be with Weber) was simply not enough.
There are quite a few examples of teams being very successful after matching an offer sheet to the their star players. The New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, and Colorado Avalanche won a combined 6 Stanley cups with Scott Stevens, Sergei Fedorov, and Joe Sakic after matching their offers sheets. You can read my article on the history of offer sheets here.
This move leaves Philadelphia with a ton of cap space and lacking a big offseason addition to a team that has lost Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle. It will be interesting to see where they turn next.
I am going to predict that they make a strong push to trade for Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan. As we can see in this excellent piece in ESPN the Magazine, Bobby Ryan and his family have a close relationship with long-time Flyers great, and current team advisor Bobby Clarke.
Other options include making an offer sheet to one of the remaining RFAs on the market, and there are some interesting D and forwards available, signing UFA Shane Doan, or Alex Semin, or could the Flyers make a trade for Keith Yandle, Jay Bouwmeester, or a player less involved in current trade rumors.
I doubt that the Flyers will just accept this decision and close up shop for the off-season. Paul Holmgren has shown that he is willing to spend to improve his club, and I think he will look for a new target. With Rick Nash out of the picture, the options have limited themselves even further, and the question now becomes, who?
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