The Nashville Predators officially matched Shea Weber’s 14-year, $110-million offer sheet, as reported on the team’s website. The decision comes a few days before the Wednesday deadline, as apparent trade talks between the Preds and Philadelphia Flyers broke down. Apparently, Nashville wasn’t bluffing.
Reports surfaced that the Nashville Predators turned down initial trade offers from the Flyers, requesting a package that included both Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn. When Philadelphia decided against parting with either of their top prospects, the Predators were cornered. When faced with the decision to either match the largest contract in franchise history or accept draft picks as compensation, the Predators decided to invest in their team.
The offer sheet is a tremendous victory for small-market hockey franchises – provided it doesn’t bankrupt the Preds. Nashville has struggled to turn a profit despite 98% attendance at home games and a consistently successful roster. That roster will continue to be captained by a very expensive Shea Weber. Weber will receive two bonuses of $12 million in addition to his first year’s salary during the first 347 days of the contract. As a restricted free agent, Weber cannot be traded for one full calendar year.
The Philadelphia Flyers are not without options after missing out on Shea Weber. Trade talks with the Anaheim Ducks are sure to resume for Bobby Ryan. After the mediocre package that the Columbus Blue Jackets received for Rick Nash, perhaps the Flyers can assemble a package of second-tier prospects that the Ducks will consider. Additionally, Alexander Semin and Shane Doan are still available through free agency.
Philadelphia missed out on a top defenseman in Shea Weber, but they also save a cap hit of $7.8 million for a player that came with a great deal of risk. All of Shea Weber’s success has come in the Nashville Predators system, playing in front of one of the league’s best goaltenders and alongside Ryan Suter. It will be interesting to see if Weber can continue his success without Ryan Suter, but I suspect he’ll continue to be one of the league’s best. The real question is whether Nashville can build a winning team around a defenseman signed to such a lengthy and expensive deal.