I wasn’t convinced that the Predators would match the offer sheet for Shea Weber largely because I didn’t think they’d have enough money. By matching, they clearly do. In the grand scheme of things, nothing has changed – the Flyers still have plenty of cap space and Weber is still in Nashville.
Not many people are surprised the Predators matched. I am somewhat surprised, since I didn’t think the Preds would or could invest more than 15 per cent of their franchise value in one player. Shea Weber may be a franchise superstar, but any contract with big money and long years has considerable risk. The obvious example would be Ilya Bryzgalov, who put up less than stellar numbers in year one of his monster contract. For a money-conscious team that’s an enormous investment for a single player, though Weber has missed only nine games over the past four seasons.
Forget about the bogus statement released by the Predators, which talked about how keeping Weber was a hockey decision. That was the easy question to answer for Poile. The infinitely more important question is (and forever will be) whether or not the Preds have the money.
I’m not so sure we’ve seen the end of this. Yes, it’s possible David Poile could turn around and hand Jakub Voracek, the Flyers’ only significant RFA, an outrageous offer sheet, but I’m not talking about retaliation. I’m not convinced Weber wants to stay in Nashville, and with no Ryan Suter that team is weaker and further away from winning the Cup, and Weber has repeatedly said he wants to win.
I’m willing to bet anything that Shea Weber will be leaving Nashville in three years.
When news broke that Weber had signed, I was a little perplexed by this tweet from Darren Dreger. Weber’s camp is “surprised” that the Predators matched? I don’t get it. What did they think was the alternative? My logic’s the same as Dreger’s – the offer sheet was obviously structured to place a lot of financial pressure on Nashville with the expectation that they don’t match.
By putting his signature on that offer sheet Weber indicated he wanted to leave. I don’t think it was a matter of getting paid since a player of Weber’s calibre will get paid no matter what, this year or next year. Why hurry it? Remember, Weber is one year away from unrestricted free agency, giving him the freedom to choose wherever he wants to go. Philadelphia, it seems like, is his No. 1 destination, RFA or UFA.
It’s a pretty big risk. If Nashville doesn’t match, then Weber gets to go where he wants and a potential deal with the Preds, in which the Flyers get their 2015 and 2016 picks back in exchange for something more immediate, could be made. If Nashville matches, he’ll be forced to stay there for the foreseeable future.
Why gamble now? Why open yourself to the possibility of having the Predators match the offer sheet and retain Weber for the next 14 years? By signing, Weber erases the notion of joining the Flyers this upcoming season and possibly for the rest of his career. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to sign another one-year deal with Nashville, for which I’m sure he will be paid handsomely, and then land the big one next summer? Even if the new CBA prevents contracts over ten years from being signed, Weber was going to be one of the highest-paid defenceman regardless.
And honestly, do the Predators want to keep a disgruntled captain around for long? By matching the Preds have to keep Weber for one calendar year, which means they won’t be able to trade him until July 19, 2013, at which point Nashville will have paid him at least $27 million for a year’s worth of services. It’s an expensive investment, especially one which doesn’t have a Cup banner in the picture. Keeping Weber was a sign of goodwill to the fans as much as it was about keeping the Predators competitive, but if a guy doesn’t want to be there he won’t stay for long. All this, of course, will depend on what kind of NMC or NTC the Preds give Weber in the contract.
The Preds made the right hockey decision, and props for that, but if matching Weber somehow puts the team in a bigger financial bind, is it really worth it? Poile showed the fans they were willing to compete and match, but that still doesn’t mean Weber won’t leave. You root for teams like Nashville to succeed, but not at this kind of cost. It seems almost uncharacteristic, an off-beat move for a team that has a reputation for finding ways to win without spending a lot of money.
Canucks fans who opposed giving Weber an offer sheet will tell you that they knew Nashville was going to match all along, which was management’s reason for not doing so. Sorry, but that’s a terrible reason. That’s akin to saying you won’t try because you’re doomed to fail anyway. There were no guarantees that the Preds would match and the Flyers didn’t lose anything except maybe a little dignity. But if the reason was that Weber didn’t want to come to Vancouver, as has been reported, then I don’t blame Gillis for not making an offer sheet. If a guy doesn’t want to be there, forget it, don’t waste your time. But to convince yourself not to act because there’s a good chance of failure, then I wonder what other opportunities have been missed in the past.