Shea Weber Agrees to Offer Sheet from Philadelphia Flyers: Can Preds Match?

Shea Weber Agreed to a 14-year, $100 million offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers. Can the Nashville Predators match?

The Philadelphia Flyers have done the Nashville Predators a favor when it comes to restricted free agent Shea Weber. The Nashville Predators already lost top-line defenseman Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild and the unforgiving world of NHL free agency. Now the Preds have the opportunity to keep Shea Weber for the rest of his foreseeable career at a fairly reasonable price compared to the inflated contracts the league’s elite are signing. According to Darren Dreger, the Flyers and Shea Weber have agreed to an offer sheet worth $100 million over the next 14 seasons.

The contract is a shade cheaper than Ryan Suter’s $98 million and 13 years, and affords the Nashville Predators the opportunity to match the contract and keep Weber. The Preds can also pass on the massive contract and get four draft picks in return, unlike the situation with Ryan Suter when he left Nashville for free. Rumors were swirling that Shea Weber refused to sign long-term in Nashville, but having agreed to a 14-year offer sheet Weber may end up in Nashville until he’s 40. The Philadelphia Flyers could have also offered a high-priced, one-year offer sheet for Weber and forced him into unrestricted free agency next season. At least now the Preds have options.

The ball, for the first time in unproductive contract negotiations with Shea Weber, is squarely in the Nashville Predators’ court. The best course of action is a bit unclear, though.

Shea Weber’s numbers are relatively solid for a defenseman, posting 193 points in the last four seasons. He’s defensively solid and a physical presence. Shea Weber is a +44 over his career, posting a negative +/- in just one season. His character came into question this postseason, but let’s treat smashing a helmet against the boards an isolated incident. Shea Weber is one of the best defensemen in hockey, but does Nashville need him for the next 14 years for this price?

Four first-round draft picks are nice, but I forget the last time Philadelphia wasn’t a perennial playoff contender. There likely isn’t another Shea Weber in the late first round of the next four drafts. They’ll help a little, but draft picks are essentially a non-factor in the Shea Weber decision. The picks are a bonus for losing a player who probably would have left anyway.

On the other hand, Nashville is a hockey town. It’s a country music town, a bar town, and a hockey town. The Predators have a stable following and generate revenue in a non-traditional market. They can sign Shea Weber if they want to, but they could probably spend the money more effectively. With a goaltender like Pekka Rinne, mediocre defense looks spectacular. The Predators simply need a balanced, average roster of skaters to contend each postseason. For 100 million dollars, Shea Weber may not fit that kind of organizational model.

The Philadelphia Flyers have done the Nashville Predators a favor. Nashville gets to decide Shea Weber’s fate: Weber can be the other face of a defense-first franchise led by Pekka Rinne, or the other defenseman that left for greener pastures like Ryan Suter. If Nashville lets Weber leave, they save money and four draft picks fall into their lap. If Nashville matches, a player that wanted to test free agency returns for the rest of his career – a small victory for small markets everywhere. I really don’t see the downside for Nashville or Shea Weber. The Preds have seven days to think it over.

In the end, Nashville should let Shea Weber go but if they keep him it’s not a terrible option either. Ultimately, defensemen aren’t worth the price the rest of the hockey market seems willing to pay in the new NHL. In a sound system, Weber is extremely replaceable. The reason the Flyers desperately need Shea Weber is the mediocrity of their goalie. The Preds have a great goalie in Pekka Rinne and can get away with mediocre defense. Shea Weber is a luxury the Nashville Predators can live without.

7/19 UPDATE: Darren Dreger’s report undervalued the offer sheet – all details are available and outlined here. The extremely front-loaded contract will be difficult for the Nashville Predators to match, but did the Philadelphia Flyers cross the line?

Mark Donatiello
Follow me on Twitter:  @FasterHockey ...read more

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