Shea Weber reportedly agreed to a 14-year offer sheet worth $110 million dollars with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Nashville Predators now have a week to match the restricted free agency offer sheet the Flyers extended Shea Weber. The obvious question is quite simply whether Shea Weber is worth $110 million dollars. Even if the Preds deem Weber’s contract appropriate, can the Nashville Predators go dollar-for-dollar with a large-market powerhouse like the Philadelphia Flyers?
Market value for Shea Weber was established by the $98 million dollars former-Predators blueliner Ryan Suter received from the Minnesota Wild as a free agent. On those grounds, it’s hard to argue Shea Weber’s worth. The free agent market is obviously willing to pay handsomely for quality defensemen – but is Shea Weber truly worth $110 million to the Nashville Predators, the Philadelphia Flyers, or anyone for that matter?
By the numbers, Shea Weber is one of the best defensemen in hockey. His 193 points over the last four seasons prove his value as a dynamic producer. Shea Weber has finished with a negative +/- just once in his career, posting a +44 differential in Nashville. How much of Weber’s production is from the system he thrived in remains to be seen. Can Shea Weber be spectacular without Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne? A monster contract for a defenseman leaving the safety of the Nashville Predators is certainly risky.
The Predators should be grateful to the Philadelphia Flyers for their offer sheet and the shift in power that it represents. The Flyers are giving Shea Weber a market-value, long-term deal. Nashville struggled to work out a long-term deal with Shea Weber before the Flyers stepped in. Now Nashville has the opportunity to decide exactly what Shea Weber is worth – a compensation package of four picks in the first round or $110 million. In the Nashville system, losing Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in the same offseason may not be as catastrophic as it initially appears. Thanks to the Flyers, the Predators now get to choose between four presumably late first-round draft picks and the pricey defenseman, rather than letting him leave for nothing like Suter did.
The Predators will obviously be forced to take a step back if they let Shea Weber leave, but they’re in position to rebuild quickly and lean more heavily on Pekka Rinne in the meantime until capable new defensemen emerge. They can use their picks to build a more balanced roster. Losing Shea Weber looks much better now during restricted free agency than it would after a one-year deal and UFA status swept him away. The Predators have options that they didn’t have a week ago.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, is desperate to improve their roster. Defense failed the Flyers this postseason as middling goaltending met depleted defensive support. Chris Pronger missed most of the year with a concussion and may be forced to retire. After missing out on Ryan Suter, the next best option for the Philadelphia Flyers to bolster their defensive corps is his former-teammate, Shea Weber. Weber addresses a tremendous need for the Flyers and is worth whatever Philadelphia can manage to pay him in that regard. It may give Philadelphia the best blueline in the NHL to help protect their controversial goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov.
I don’t believe Shea Weber is worth anywhere near $110 million dollars to the Nashville Predators and four draft picks is reasonable compensation, even when the Flyers make the playoffs each of the next four years. While standing toe-to-toe with the Philadelphia Flyers would be a small victory for Gary Bettman’s non-traditional hockey markets, the Predators can more or less replace Shea Weber’s production. Weber, in addition to skill and size, was a product of a spectacular system anchored by one of the best goalies in hockey. Mediocre defensemen can look like superstars in front of a goalie like Pekka Rinne, but a goalie like Ilya Bryzgalov can sometimes make superstar defensemen look mediocre. Ultimately, the Flyers need Shea Weber – the Preds don’t. He’s worth $110 million to Philadelphia, but he’s likely only worth four draft picks and open cap space to the Nashville Predators.