The big news out of NHL HQ today is that Shea Weber accepted a 14-year $100 million deal from Philadelphia Flyers. Not to be outdone by his former partner, Ryan Suter, Weber’s deal takes the cake this off-season. This may seem strange to you at first, because Weber was not a unrestricted free agent, but still carried his restricted free agent status. Indeed, this is an offer sheet, and Weber decided to accept. Nashville still owns the rights to match this offer and pony up the $100 million that Paul Holmgren dished out. So what does this mega deal mean and what affect it has on both teams?
For one the Nashville Predators will match this offer, and they have 7 days (thanks Reddit) to do so – by God they will. This may be an opportunity to lock-up Weber without having to negotiate with him, aka “pulling teeth”. He may have wanted out of Tennessee, but David Poile is very determined to keep one of his premiere defenseman after losing Ryan Suter earlier this off-season. The offer sheet was unexpected, since it is so rare that we see them, and it may create some tension between Poile and Holmgren. The easiest way to make GM-nemies is to make offers to the teams RFA’s. This was a gutsy move by the Philly and obviously comes with a prayer. I think, gulp, this could be good news for Nashville fans not so much for the owner. Although, the deal is huge and a lifetime will pass before Weber can play anywhere else, this locks up an all-star and the face of your franchise without any fuss. Commit and he is yours, do not and get four first-round picks. The problem with those picks is that Flyers have been good and look to be good for a while. You will not exactly be getting a top-10 draft pick.
Go look at the draft picks that were picked in the top 30 by Nashville for the past 10 years and see how good they have been. Here is the first round picks that Nashville Predators scouts have mustered up since 2004: Colin Wilson, Chet Pickard, Jonathon Blum, Ryan Parent, Austin Watson, Zach Budsih, and infamous Alexander Radulov. This does not mean gold can’t be found, I mean Weber himself was 49th overall in 2003, but that is rare and once you hit gold you want to hold on to it.
What this means for Flyers is that Pronger is probably done playing. I doubt this offer is made if Pronger is coming back full-time, full force, with passion and fire. Philly has about $62 million tied up in its players, Webers cap hit will be around $7.2 million a year, and this would put them mighty close to the cap ceiling. With Pronger gone, that clears $4 million in CAP space, they get room on the back-end and that number-one guy they were missing. You have to give it to Holmgren for being ballsy with these big contracts. He dished out one to Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Chris Pronger, Bryzgalov, and now Weber. This also means he believes strongly in the future of his prospects as he will lose four first-round draft picks. How will Philly fans feel about that?
Weber on the other hand, it seems was desperate to cash-in before the new CBA has been hammered out. He is very close to the negotiations, as he is one of the players that represents the National Hockey Players Association, and he clearly knew where the talks were headed. This tells us that he feared he would not be able to cash-in, like his old buddy, Ryan Suter, did with Minnesota Wild next year. This deal was his last chance at big money and maybe Nashville was trying to low-ball him or he did not want to sign there, but now he will have no choice. Accepting this offer ultimately has him locked in to playing with one team or the other for the rest of his NHL career.
So this is a bombshell indeed. According to NHL.com, Nashville and Philadelphia are trying to make a trade for Weber’s rights, but the Flyers GM got impatient with the talks and made the huge offer. I do not see how Nashville does not match this offer, they need him and this deal does carry a reasonable CAP hit at 7.2 million per year. This may shake up the off-season moves and may even shake up the CBA talks, offer sheets are usually detested by GM’s for this exact reason. The 4 first round picks that Philly may lose, how will fans react? What is going through Pekka Rinne’s head? This is a big contract and someone will have to fork over the cash for the next 14 years. So who will it be? The City of Brotherly Love or the Music City?