While you were either sleeping or camping out for "The Dark Knight Rises," news broke that Shea Weber had signed a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers, putting Nashville Predators GM David Poile in the toughest of situations:
Can the Predators afford to match Philadelphia's offer?
(As an aside, can we applaud Paul Holmgren for using a tool of the current CBA to try and improve his team while many GMs don't want to break from the Old Boys Club and avoid a potential barn fight?)
Here's Poile in a statement on Thursday:
"We are in receipt of the offer sheet signed between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. Under the rules pertaining to an offer sheet, the Predators have one week to decide whether to match or accept the compensation. We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea. Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team. Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it and all of its ramifications in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term.["]
He added: "We do not anticipate any further comments on this situation until we make our decision within the next seven days."
Poile has long-stated, even before Ryan Suter left for greener pastures in Minnesota, that locking up Weber was a top priority. Once Suter was out of the picture, the focus shifted to retaining his captain:
"I'm going to turn my attention to (re-signing Shea Weber), and I've told to Shea on numerous occasions. He's the captain of our team, I want to build our team around him. He has been terrific in the captain's role, as a player, I hope he will re sign with us." - July 4, The Tennessean
"It's all about talking about Shea and to see if we can get him signed to a longer-term contract with the Predators," Poile said. "My conversations have always been very positive with Shea, his role and his future with the organization in terms of where the franchise is going." - July 11, The Tennesseean
TSN's Darren Dreger, who broke the news late Wednesday, tweeted that the Predators had been trying to trade Weber. But did the Flyers do Poile a favor with the structuring of a deal to keep the 26-year-old defenseman, or does Nashville's compensation go from whatever potential deal(s) Poile was working on to now just four future first-round picks?
The biggest factor in Poile's decision will be the signing bonuses in Weber's deal, which total $68 million. (Suter's deal will earn him $25 million in signing bonuses over the next three seasons.)
Can a club like Nashville, who doesn't have Comcast money backing it, dole out that amount of cash and still afford to surround Weber -- and Pekka Rinne, he of a seven-year, $49 million extension as of last November -- with pieces to remain a winning team?
For Predators fans, this is a blow they can't afford to take and the deal needs to be matched, no matter how it's structured.
From Sam at On the Forecheck:
I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that this is the defining moment of this young franchise. David Poile and Barry Trotz have been talking about how the Predators are being primed to be a cap-ceiling team. Time to put your money where your mouth is, everyone. Match. Do it.
Since the lockout, of the six offer sheets signed, only one was not matched: Dustin Penner's infamous deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
When the Vancouver Canucks failed in trying to trade for David Backes of the St. Louis Blues in 2008, GM Mike Gillis went the offer sheet route signing him to a three-year, $7.5 million deal. The trade offer was described by Blues president John Davidson as "a Volkswagen for a Porsche."
St. Louis quickly matched the offer sheet and Backes was named captain three years later. A week later, the Blues signed Steve Bernier to a one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet, which had spite completely written all over it.
The Canucks matched, but as we watched a very upset Poile discuss Suter's departure, will there be a measure of revenge from the Predators side if they don't match the offer for Weber? Flyers forward Jakub Voracek is out there as an RFA and coming off an 18-goal, 49-point season as a soon-to-be 23-year-old; otherwise the cap space that would have been used on Weber could go towards re-stocking a gutted blue line.
Poile and the Predators went all-in this season to make a run at the Stanley Cup: They succeeded in bringing Alex Radulov back to finish out his entry-level contract and acquired Andrei Kostitsyn, Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline only to fail to advance past the second round.
They fell short, and while progress was made, Suter's now gone and their captain may be out the door within the next seven days. As Sam put it, this is a defining moment for the franchise. Suter was a sucker-punch to the gut; Weber may be a knockout blow.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy