The Philadelphia Flyers were getting ready for a long, game changing day on July 25. Flyers fans like myself expected that the Nashville Predators would wait until the last moment to decide Shea Weber's fate, and whether they could afford to spend $110 million for him. But instead of making their decision at 11:59 p.m. on July 25, the Predators decided to break the Flyers hearts 24 hours early.
Philadelphia was confident that a small market franchise like Nashville couldn't afford to match Weber's deal - especially with the backlogged first few seasons of it. Yet the Predators would have been a dead franchise without Weber and with Ryan Suter already joining the Minnesota Wild. Therefore, they stayed relevant by matching the 14-year, $110 million offer on July 24 and sending the Flyers back to square one.
After a week of dreaming that they would have the perfect replacement for Chris Pronger, the Flyers were gut checked into reality. Now there is no one left that is good enough to fill Pronger's skates, and any free agent they can still get wouldn't match up to Weber - not even Bobby Ryan or Shane Doan.
What's more, this has already been an offseason where the likes of James van Riemsdyk, Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle have departed and left some offensive holes. Acquiring a defensive master like Weber might have helped balance that out, and given Ilya Bryzgalov the support he needed. Instead, the Flyers still must rely on a shaky Bryzgalov to carry the load, plus they need their young stars to develop a little faster.
The fact that the New York Rangers filled a great offensive need by trading for Rick Nash on July 23 now hurts much more. The Rangers have suddenly become stronger - and this is a team that was 6-0 against the Flyers last season without Nash. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins are retooling and are hungry for revenge, while the defending conference champion New Jersey Devils still have Martin Brodeur for two final seasons, even without Zach Parise.
Landing Weber would have sent a huge message to the Flyers' division rivals and the rest of the East. But GM Paul Holmgren failed in his big gamble, namely because he gambled against a team that was more desperate than his own.
The Predators may live to regret paying so much for Weber, but they would have tanked much faster without him. Meanwhile, the Flyers at least have the budding core of a contender set up, although progress may not come as quickly now.
July 25 could have been a nerve wracking day of waiting, and one that could have ended with a huge coup for the Flyers. But with Weber going back to Nashville early, this is just a day to mourn and regret as Philadelphia's sky-high Stanley Cup dreams take yet another hit.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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