The Philadelphia Flyers have reportedly agreed to an offer sheet with Nashville Predators star defenseman Shea Weber on July 19, 2012. The earliest reports indicated that this would be a 14-yr, $100-million contract. Ensuing reports have now claimed that this would be a $110-million contract.
It's your move, Nashville.
For the Predators to match this offer, they'd need to pay $80 million of the $110 million during the first six seasons. The contract includes $68 million in signing bonuses. The Predators are expected to have a difficult time matching this offer because of all of the money that's being paid upfront. As of November 2011, the Predators reportedly had a team value of $163 million.
The Predators can do one of two things: they can match the offer sheet or they can accept four first-round draft picks. The Flyers normally have a pretty good team. Therefore, it's reasonable to expect that these picks would end up being in the low-to-mid-20s.
In this situation, I'm of the belief that the Predators need to spend money in order to make money. The Predators need Weber's star power. They need to show their fans that they're trying to build a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They must prove that they're more than a farm system for every big-market franchise.
The Predators must do everything possible to match this offer sheet. Here's why:
Ryan Suter Out Of The Equation
The Predators have tried to lead their fans to believe that they were a serious contender in retaining all three of their biggest superstars. This includes Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter and Weber. The Minnesota Wild signed Suter to a 13-year, $98-million contract earlier this month. The Predators received nothing in return.
The Predators had reportedly offered a 13-year, $90-million contract to Suter. Poile never got the chance to match Minnesota's bid. The Predators offered him this knowing that they'd still have to deal with Weber. Now that Suter is out of the equation, the Predators have more financial flexibility for keeping their two-time Norris Trophy finalist.
Poile was faced with a similar situation when he was the Washington Capitals general manager in 1990. He declined to match an offer sheet from the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Scott Stevens. The Capitals received five first-round draft picks from 1991 through 1995. The Capitals drafted Trevor Halverson, Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Witt, Nolan Baumgartner and Miika Elomo.
The draft picks never really panned out to anything more than two decent starters. Poile has been on record as saying that overvaluing those draft choices over a proven asset was amongst his biggest mistakes in 30 years as a general manager. I believe Poile would like to match this offer. I'm just not confident that ownership will loosen the purse strings.
First-Round Draft History
I'd be much more comfortable with trading Weber for proven assets. The Predators haven't had the greatest success at the crap-shoot table that's known as the first-round of the NHL Draft. Here are some of their first-round picks since 2004:
Alexander Radulov (2004), Ryan Parent (2005), Jonathon Blum (2007), Colin Wilson and Chet Pickard (2008), Ryan Ellis (2009), Austin Watson (2010).
Shea Weber Willing To Play Here
By signing this offer sheet, Weber has guaranteed that he'll play for either the Flyers or Predators. All the Predators must do is match it. Weber wouldn't have signed this offer sheet if he didn't want to accept the risk with playing in Nashville for the next 14 seasons. He would've waited one year.
The good news is that the Predators are guaranteed to get something in return. Losing Weber for nothing was not an option. The problem is that none of it is proven talent. The other problem is that those first-round draft picks probably won't be that high. I'm concerned about the reaction of the fan base if two All-Star defenseman were to both leave with nothing more than four unproven assets. They don't want to alienate too many of their fans.
The Predators must retain some of their homegrown talent. Otherwise, Predators fans can look forward to being the "Pittsburgh Pirates" of the NHL: a franchise trapped in an endless loop of rebuilding. Kind of like a Ke-e-e-e-e-e-e-$ha song.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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