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Making sense of the Shea Weber offer-sheet ordeal…

Let’s step back from the ledge Preds fans and try to make sense of the this offer sheet predicament.

Here’s what we know:

  • Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber, late Wednesday night, signed a 14-year offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers worth $110 million.
  • The Predators have seven days to match the offer.
  • A player is not required to sign any offer sheet he receives.
  • Per the current CBA, if Nashville chooses to match, they cannot trade Weber for one year.
  • General Manager David Poile is on record saying that the Predators would “match any offer.”
  • Weber is aware that, by signing an offer sheet (from any team), he runs the risk of being a Predator for the term of the offer. In this case, life.
  • Were Nashville not to match, the Preds would receive four first-round picks as compensation.
  • Those first round picks would most likely be somewhere between #20 and #30 overall due to the projected success of the Flyers. In other words, this isn’t the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets or Winnipeg Jets.
  • TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that there had been four “big players” in trade talks surrounding Weber. The Flyers, the San Jose Sharks, the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers.
  • The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper reported that Weber visited all four of the above organizations over the past two weeks. (How he kept that secret in today’s sports landscape is beyond me but that’s another topic for another day).
  • The Flyers and Predators have a long history of working together (see: Peter Forsberg in 2007, Dan Hamhuis‘ negotiating rights in 2010, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell‘s negotiating rights in 2007, Danny Markov in 2005, etc.)
  • Weber declined to go to arbitration with the Preds this summer.

Here are just some of the possible scenarios that may have led Weber to sign the offer sheet, as opposed to just working out a deal with Nashville directly.

THEORY #1: The Flyers believe the Predators won’t match the offer
Ever heard of Occum’s razor? It’s the principal, basically, saying the most logical answer is the correct one. That’s where this first theory comes in. Perhaps Philadelphia honestly believes that the Predators are bluffing when they say they’ll “match any offer.” Or maybe they believe that was the old rule. Since defenseman Ryan Suter misled the only franchise he’s ever known and bolted for the Minnesota Wild on July 4, maybe the ownership’s philosophy has changed from “we believe we’re a Stanley Cup team and we’re going to spend like it!” to “well, let’s hold off on that whole spending-to-the-cap thing.” If the latter is the case, than the Flyers are doing the right thing by securing the best defenseman in the league by tossing him an offer sheet that Nashville, they believe, won’t match.

THEORY #2: Shea Weber wants to stay in Nashville
This may be a backwards way of doing things but think about it. Poile is on record saying he would “match any offer,” correct? Obviously, Weber is aware of such a statement. Therefore, if he wants to stay in Nashville for the rest of his career, all he has to do is wait for another team to offer the money he wants and the term he wants and boom! Preds match and retain their captain, Weber gets his money and everyone’s happy.

THEORY #3: The Flyers are playing a little defense
If we’re being real about it, the New York Rangers are a tremendous fit for Weber. Like the Predators, they have a Vezina-nominated goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, like the Predators, they have an up-and-coming group of young forwards and, like the Predators, they boast an impressive young blueline with names like Ryan McDonagh (23 years old), Marc Staal (25) and Michael Del Zotto (22). Weber would have slid right into place on the top pairing and made them an instant Stanley Cup favorite. But here’s Phili, a division rival of the Rangers saying, “we can’t let them have Weber!” After all, they play them six times a year and would probably have to go through them in order to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. In other words, it’s already hard enough. No need to allow it to get harder. Cue the ridiculous offer sheet that they know A) Nashville won’t match and he’ll become a Flyer, not a Ranger or B) Nashville will match and he’ll stay a Predator, i.e. still not a Ranger.

THEORY #4: Weber wants some insurance
Unlike the NFL, contracts in the National Hockey League guarantees you the money you sign for. With new collective bargaining agreement discussions taking place between the NHL and the NHLPA, anything could happen going forward. What if the two sides agree on the NHL’s opening offer? (yes, I know that’s not realistic but go with me on this). Weber, along with every other player, would have a five-year limit on any new contract. What if he suffers a career-ending injury in year five of the deal? His career is over and he has no more paychecks coming in. By signing this 14-year offer sheet while he still can, he guarantees he will be making all $110 million over the next 14 years, whether he never misses another game or gets hurt on opening night of this season.

THEORY #5: Preds and Flyers were close to a trade
Obviously the best thing Nashville could do, if they weren’t going to re-sign Weber long term, is trade him for a kings ransom. Using our Edmonton Oilers example a week ago, the Preds could have gotten young game-changer Jordan Eberle, a talented minor leaguer looking for a shot in Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and a first round pick in exchange for their captain. But Philadelphia has assets too. Assets like 19-year old Sean Couturier who scored 13 goals from the bottom two lines, was second on the team in plus/minus and who has tremendous room to grow. They’ve also got both young phenoms Luke Schenn and Braydon Schenn. They’ve even got former Predator Scott Hartnell who had a career year last year bagging 37 goals and 67 points (don’t get too excited though, he played with Claude Giroux). Since Nashville was reportedly interested in Couturier, one of the Schenn brothers and more, it’s possible that the two sides are working out a trade and need more time to decide. While they’re making up their minds, however, Weber is vulnerable to an offer sheet from anyone, thereby nixing any trade progress, so Philadelphia acts first and buys them some time. But you say, “they can’t trade him now, though.” That’s true. But what if there’s an understanding in place that, once the Preds decline to match and they officially receive the four first round picks as compensation, the Flyers then re-acquire the four picks in exchange for the two (or three) roster players Poile and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren have agreed on? Obviously, it’s complicated but, again, these are two men who have a long history of working together. Anything’s possible.

THEORY #6: Weber wants to have some say in where he goes
Just because a team comes to a player with an offer sheet doesn’t mean he has to accept it. They have to actually sign on the dotted line before the process can start. With that in mind, perhaps Weber didn’t want to be traded to Edmonton or Anaheim or Timbuktu. By working out a deal and then signing with the Flyers, Weber gives himself at least some say as to where he’ll play the rest of his career. He could really like Philadelphia but he also may not mind staying in Nashville. By putting pen to paper and hitting “send FAX,” Weber knows for sure he’ll be in one of those two places and not wasting his eighth NHL season with a team he doesn’t care about/have no chance to win a Cup with.

THEORY #7: Poile has called in a favor to his old friend Holmgren
As mentioned before, the Predators and Flyers go back a long way. They’ve done so many deals over the years, in the late 2000’s, Philadelphia was nicknamed “Preds North.” That being said, could Poile have dialed up Holmgren one more time and asked for a favor? If talks with Weber and his agents weren’t going well, it’s possible — although improbable — that he wanted to speed up the process and asked the Flyers do him a solid and throw an absurd offer sheet at the Sicamous, British Columbia native. This would force Weber’s hand a little bit but, at the end of the day, the Predators would get what they want (their captain) and Weber would get what he wants (term and money).


We asked three Predators bloggers to give us their thoughts on the scenarios.

Ryan Porth, Smashville 24/7
I fully believe Weber wants to speed up the process and get a contract signed – whether it’s with Nashville or not. He’s smart enough to know that this is his best (only?) chance to become the NHL’s highest-paid defenseman before a new CBA is hammered out. After two off-seasons of David Poile being unable to get him locked up long-term, I get the feeling Weber is fed up and wants to get it all over with.

I do not think he simply wants out of Nashville. Could he have a desire to play with the Flyers? Of course. As his agent stated, he wouldn’t have signed an offer sheet without having an intention to play with the Flyers. But he also wouldn’t have signed a 14-year offer sheet without knowing he could be spending the next decade and a half in Nashville.

If he really wanted out of Music City, he would have opted for arbitration and set his sights on free agency in 2013.

Robby Stanley, Hockey Night in Nashville
It makes perfect sense to sign an offer sheet from Weber’s perspective. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming CBA, Weber has guaranteed a way to get a massive contract for a number of years, which may not be possible in the next CBA. Signing an offer sheet with Philadelphia speeds up what could have been a long, drawn out process for Weber. Last summer’s arbitration process took a toll on Weber, and he didn’t want to deal with a similar drawn out process this summer. This way, Weber gets it over with. He’ll either be in Philadelphia for the next 14 years or he’ll be in Nashville. And at this point, it’s all up to the Predators.

Amanda DiPaolo, Inside Smashville
Reports indicate that Weber visited several facilities before signing an offer sheet with Philadelphia, that also included meeting with the New York Rangers, Detroit, and San Jose. A lot of thought has gone into this decision by the All-Star defenseman. Weber likely does want to play for the Flyers, but signing a 14-year deal means that he can’t be entirely opposed to playing in Nashville long-term since the team has the chance to match the offer. However, the comments made by Weber’s agent were surprising because he spoke as though Weber had signed as an unrestricted free agent. That said, the deal is designed to make it extremely difficult for a small-market team like Nashville to match the offer. The $110 million isn’t the problem, rather it is the signing bonus of $13 million that Weber will be paid up front for the next four seasons. Could it be the case that Weber simply knows it is impossible for the Predators to match the offer? Maybe. But why take the chance signing a 14-year deal if you are adamant against playing for the team that has the right to match the offer sheet?


We’ve covered realistic scenarios, absurdly complicated scenarios and downright laughable scenarios. We’ve had three bloggers weigh in with different reactions. So, in the end, what have we learned? We’ve learned that we know very little. And that’s the point. Don’t jump to conclusions, don’t assume the worst and, for crying out loud, come off the ledge.

Or at least wait until the Predators decide one way or the other.


PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Fuqua // Flickr (used with permission)