The Nashville Predators are on the clock.
Late Wednesday night, it was revealed the Philadelphia Flyers signed RFA defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet — giving Nashville seven days to match, or let Weber go in exchange for a bounty of draft picks.
To some, the issue of matching is a no-brainer: Nashville must do it. Having already lost Ryan Suter for nothing, the team cannot afford to lose its captain and best player (both on the ice and in terms of public relations.)
But to GM David Poile and ownership, it might not be that simple. Philly’s front-loaded, bonus-laden offer could put the Preds in a financial bind — Weber’s set to make $80 million over the next six years alone.
Some ramifications to consider:
Nashville would receive Philadelphia’s first round picks at the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 NHL Entry Drafts. It should be noted that Philadelphia has made the playoffs five straight years while averaging 98 points per season. If that keeps up, those picks would likely be in the 20s.
As mentioned earlier, losing both Weber and Suter in the same summer would be catastrophic — they were Nashville’s best defensemen and two of the club’s better scorers (finishing fourth and fifth in points, respectively.) This isn’t to say the Preds would be bereft of talented rearguards, though. Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Kevin Klein and Jonathan Blum were all top-40 draft picks and Mattias Ekholm was named the Swedish league’s best defenseman last season. But it’s beyond optimistic to suggest any will develop to the Weber/Suter level.
According to Capgeek, the Preds currently have the NHL’s lowest payroll and are $13 million away from hitting the salary cap floor. They almost need to spend money at this point (and hey, shelling out $110 million to Weber would be a way to do that.)
Poile also noted on a few occasions his offseason plan was to re-sign Suter, lock up Weber long-term and take a run at Zach Parise, suggesting he was ready to break open the checkbook.
That said, the contract is ridiculously front-loaded and would be an unprecedented amount of money for Nashville to pay a player. Case in point: Pekka Rinne signed a seven-year, $49 million deal this season that was the biggest in franchise history.
The first four years of Weber’s deal cost $56 million.
Regardless, it would be a PR nightmare if the Preds pass. There’s no calculating how hockey fans in Tennessee would react (one suspects poorly) and the perception of the team/franchise would take a major hit, both publicly and among players. What high profile free agent would ever consider Nashville after that?