Predators match 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to captain Shea Weber

It's a match!

In the "most important transaction in franchise history", according to the press release, the Nashville Predators have matched the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet signed by Shea Weber with the Philadelphia Flyers last week. It's now the second-largest contract in NHL history.

A wild month that started with the franchise losing Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild will end with some relief that the Predators didn't lose both of their cornerstone players. GM David Poile has said all along that the team would match any offer thrown Weber's way. Team Chairman Tom Cigarran said that the team's budget for the 2012-13 season would be its largest ever and the franchise would only miss out on players due to "some chemistry issue, or their grandmother lives in Montreal or something, the intangibles."

Retaining Weber is a statement to the fanbase. They won't miss out on their franchise player, one who will receive $27 million in the next calendar year from two $13 million signing bonuses and a $1 million base salary for next season. Weber is not eligible to be traded, either, until next summer; but why would a small-market team shell out all that cash over 365 days and then make a deal? And how close to equal value could Poile even get in that situation? (UPDATE: CBC's Elliotte Friedman reports that Weber's agents will discuss adding a no-trade clause to this deal with the Predators on Wednesday.)

The news of Weber signing the offer sheet with Philadelphia broke late Wednesday night, with the deadline to match or walk July 25 at 11:36 p.m., one week from the exact time the contract went through the NHL's Central Registry. There were a lot of things for Nashville to consider while weighing this decision in that time. They had to think about their present and their future with or without Shea Weber and $110 million committed to payroll over the next 14 seasons.

From the Predators:

As the organization analyzed the overall situation and worked toward a conclusion, the decision boiled down to three questions:

- Was Shea Weber the individual that this franchise wanted to lead our team, a team that would compete for the Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years?

- Would matching the offer sheet be in the best long-term interest of the team and organization?

- Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with "deep pockets?"

The answer to each of the above questions is clearly "yes." The organization spent the last several days analyzing all aspects of the offer sheet, from economic implications to the impact on the team hockey operations puts on the ice.

With Weber in the fold that leaves the Predators with about $16.5 million in cap space to retool. At the moment, they're just under the $54.2 million cap floor.

After Weber signed the offer sheet last week, his agent, Jarrett Bousquet, told TSN Radio, "He'd like to play with the Philadelphia Flyers because we all feel that he's just another piece in the puzzle to take them to the next level. He doesn't want to go through a rebuilding process again" and "I don't think you sign an offer sheet unless you're pointing in that one direction."

The awkwardness of those words will dissipate quickly as it was the feelings of a player entering his prime thinking about his long-term future. He's the face the of franchise. He's the team captain. He'll be welcomed back in Smashville like it were any other year, maybe even moreso now.

Weber may have been leaning toward the direction of Philadelphia, but he's now centered himself in Nashville.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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