Examining some popular arguments for/against matching Weber’s offer sheet

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The Philadelphia Flyers’ 14-year, massively frontloaded $110 million offer sheet for Shea Weber has produced a lot of passionate and varied responses from the hockey community. Well respected writers and analysis have attacked the question of whether or not Nashville should match the contract from a variety of angles.

I want to take a moment and examine those arguments with the intention of offering some counterpoints and supporting evidence. Without further ado, here are some of the ones that have caught my eye:

The Nashville Predators need to reach the salary floor anyways, so why wouldn’t they match Weber’s offer sheet?

I personally like this argument and it’s one I’ve made, so in the interest of fairness, we’ll start by picking this one apart.

First and foremost: We don’t know what the salary floor will be yet because we don’t have a new CBA. Right now, we’re operating under the assumption that the salary cap will be $70.2 million and the floor $54.2 million, but there’s a good chance that won’t be the case.

However, let’s assume for the moment that will be the floor when they enter the season, it’s still not that simple. Weber’s cap hit will be roughly $7.86 million annually, but he will reportedly earn $27 million in the first calender year of the deal.

There are far cheaper ways to get to the cap if the Predators don’t feel like they can handle the frontloaded nature of Weber’s contract. For example, Montreal’s Scott Gomez comes with a $7,357,143 annual cap hit, but he’s owed $5.5 million in salary next season.

The Predators need to match Weber’s contract in order to maintain their status as a relevant franchise.

This is a bit of a tough one because ultimately, it’s hard to gauge what fan interest will be like in a non-traditional market after losing two of their most popular players. At the same time, a franchise is basically relevant as long as it exists.

If the argument is that a player won’t sign with Nashville because they let Shea Weber slip out of their hands, well, that might be true for some of them, but Nashville has stayed competitive largely by developing their own talent anyways. Guys like Ryan Suter and Weber might leave the first chance they get, but as long as the Predators maintain their farm system, it won’t keep them down for long.

Already, as dark as things might seem for Nashville, the fans can take comfort in the fact that they got a pretty promising core of young blueliners in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Jonathon Blum. I’m not saying that they will be the next Weber and Suter, but it’s not like they have no contingency plan.

Besides, at it’s core, suggesting that free agents in general won’t go to a certain franchise feels somewhat misleading because they don’t all act the same. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise passed on teams like Pittsburgh and Detroit to sign with Minnesota, so it’s not like free agents simply seek out the biggest market with the best track record of success.

The Predators need to rebuild and what better way to do that then to take the draft picks

There’s certainly logic in this argument as the prospect of having an extra four first-rounders has its appeal. They’ll likely be late first-round picks, but then Weber was taken with the 49th overall selection in 2003.

That being said, I do want to offer a couple of counterpoints for you to consider. First off, those draft picks are naturally a huge risk. The Flyers might collapse one season, a 27th overall pick might be the next Weber — but it’s also possible that they could end up with four AHLers. We just don’t know.

It’s that risk that’s the reason why you typically don’t see a young superstar traded exclusively for a bunch of draft picks under normal circumstances. If you’re giving up a guy of Weber’s caliber, you want something a bit safer and more tangible in return.

One possible compromise is that the Nashville Predators could trade those draft picks back to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for some established NHLers or promising prospects.

The other counterargument is that Weber is only 26 (27 in August). Even if you’ve resigned yourself to the notion that the Predators need to rebuild, Weber is still young enough to be a leader once Nashville comes out from the other end.

It will be awkward to keep Shea Weber after he signed with Philadelphia.

Weber is going to be a very rich man regardless of what happens, but as we’ve seen before, the act of getting paid isn’t always enough to keep a player happy with his situation. If it was, guys like Rick Nash wouldn’t ask to get traded.

That being said, when Weber signed a 14-year deal with Philadelphia, he had to know that Nashville had the option of matching it. That might not be his preference, but if he didn’t think it was a possibility, then he was just deluding himself.

Weber’s agent has stated that his client doesn’t want to go through another rebuilding process. At the same time, he also left the door open to patching things up with Nashville if they chose to match the deal.

Also, let’s not forget that Weber would not be the first big name star to sign an offer sheet and end up sticking with his original club. For example, back in 1997, the New York Rangers and Joe Sakic agreed to an offer sheet. Sakic went on to spend the rest of his career with Colorado.

The nightmare scenario for Nashville isn’t that they match the offer sheet and then Weber refuses to play because that seems incredibly unlikely. The real nightmare scenario is that they match the offer sheet and then three or four years from now — after they’ve already paid him a large chunk of the contract because of it’s frontloaded nature — he asks to be traded.

That fear might end up weighing on the Predators minds as much as the financial implications as they consider their options.

Related:

Predators Chairman’s bold statements will be put to the test

EA Sports rolls out NHL 18 closed beta, with a lot of 3-on-3 focus

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EA Sports released a closed beta for “NHL 18” today, which gives players on Xbox One and Playstation 4 the chance to test three modes out from July 25 – Aug. 1.*

It sure seems like the beta – if not the full game – will focus on 3-on-3 overtime, and extending that experience beyond the confines of normal NHL action.

For one thing, the established EA Sports Hockey League mode will apparently include 3-on-3 overtime in the beta, and maybe more interestingly, also through full games. EA Sports explains as much:

Bringing authentic NHL 3-on-3 overtime to EA SPORTS Hockey League, you can now choose to play 3-on-3 full matches, opening up more ice for you and your teammates to get creative, pull off big plays, and showcase brand new skill moves. With more space to attack – and to make mistakes – 3-on-3 EASHL is higher stakes with more competition and skills.

Fans of the ailing sub-genre of arcade-style sports video games should take note that “NHL 18” introduces “NHL Threes.” The format hearkens back to the 16-bit days by turning off offside and icing calls, while a penalty will give a player a chance at penalty shot. Interesting. EA provided a little more information about the mode here, and it sure sounds like it could be fully featured upon release. The beta at least provides a taste of that.

(It wouldn’t be surprising if “NHL Threes” apes the previous generations “3 on 3 NHL Arcade,” which became something of a cult classic for some hockey game fans.)

Along with EA Sports Hockey League (note: a mode where you control a single player rather than a full team) and “NHL Threes,” the beta also includes the more vanilla Online Versus Play mode.

While the beta appears to be closed, EA’s NHL account is tweeting out ways to get codes on Tuesday, so it might not be too late if you’re lucky.

Without taking the beta for a test run personally just yet, this sounds like a nice opportunity for people to give the near-complete “NHL 18” a trial before the full game comes out on Sept. 15.

* – Or, as Kotaku’s Jason Schreier recently noted, maybe for a longer period of time.

Streit on Canadiens return: ‘Montreal always had a special place in my heart’

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Whether he’s Andrei Markov‘s replacement or a depth addition, the bottom line is that Mark Streit is slated for his second run with the Montreal Canadiens.

Streit, 39, would be justified in feeling like this signing could really tie his career in a nice bow.

MORE: Canadiens sign Streit

(Amusingly for everyone beyond his accountant, with a reported $700K cap hit for 2017-18, Streit is drawing almost the exact same salary as he did from the start; Streit received $600K in 2006-07 and 2007-08, according to Cap Friendly/Cap Geek.)

Back in 2004, the Canadiens drafted him … barely. He was a ninth-round pick, going 262nd overall in 2004.*

All things considered, Streit jumped to the NHL remarkably quickly, playing more than half a season in 2005-06. He would bounce from the Canadiens to the Islanders, Flyers, Penguins, and now back to Montreal. Despite him pretty well-traveled, the Swiss-born blueliner feels most at home with the Habs, as he told the team website.

“Montreal always had a special place in my heart because I started there,” Streit said. “One thing I really always missed was playing at the Bell Centre. It’s a unique rink with unique fans and a unique atmosphere. If you get the chance to play in front of them every night – with the atmosphere and the life in the city – I think it’s very motivating.”

Streit acknowledged the pressure that comes with playing there, and he’d certainly feel some if Canadiens fans are expecting a player who struggled to even crack the Pittsburgh Penguins’ postseason lineup to replace Markov.

Considering his $700K cap hit, Canadiens fans should keep expectations reasonable, especially since Streit tends to really blossom when people don’t expect much from him.

* – In case you’re wondering, that was a respectable ninth round. Danniel Winnik (717 games played, 265th overall), Grant Clitsome (205 GP, 271), Adam Cracknell (203, 279), and Jannik Hansen (580 GP, 287) all made solid careers for themselves. Not bad for guys who were drafted in rounds that wouldn’t even take place today.

Canada would consider Doan, Iginla for 2018 Winter Olympics

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When discussing the construction of Canada’s possible roster heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sean Burke can be almost frustratingly coy. Still, in leaving virtually every available avenue at least conceivably open, he leaves room for some fascinating scenarios.

It might be tough to top this one discussed on TSN’s Overdrive 1050: if NHL teams pass on signing Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan, perhaps the Olympics could be their swan song?

Yes, there are quite a few “ifs” involved, but it’s an intriguing thought during the dog days of the hockey summer.

Burke likely presented more realistic possibilities in acknowledging that professional players plying their trade in Europe, particularly the KHL, might be the greatest source for talent.

“Most of our players will be guys that come from Europe playing in the KHL,” Burke said to TSN’s Overdrive 1050.

When pondering possible entries, recent international tournaments could be helpful.

Looking at Canada’s 2016 Deutschland Cup roster and who they’re sending to the 2017 Sochi Open, NHL castoffs such as Derek Roy, Gilbert Brule, Nigel Dawes, Andrew Ebbett, Chris Lee, and Mason Raymond all seem likely logical choices. College players such as Cale Makar make things more complicated – both for Canada and the U.S. – as well.

In a separate interview with TSN, Burke noted that he would rather not supply specific names himself. Even in being vague, he provided an additional interesting detail: upcoming tournaments may illuminate what Canada lacks on its roster as much as who could have a leg-up on making the team.

And, if nothing else, they’ll get a good look at some players through a rigorous process.

Wow.

That notion makes you wonder if AHL players will be at a significant disadvantage to make both Team Canada and the United States rosters. As the Associated Press notes, AHL teams look poised to loan certain players, but only for a window of Feb. 5-26.

Burke notes that he’ll want a significant chunk of his roster more or less settled around December, and he already pointed to a preference for those who are playing in Europe.

Now, that doesn’t mean Canada or the U.S. will ignore an obvious AHL talent – if available – yet it sounds like those players would face an uphill battle to making the 2018 Winter Olympics.

That said, a lot can change, especially considering how often injuries can throw a wrench in things.

As much as we’d all love to watch a “best-on-best” tournament featuring NHL players, the alternative is also intriguing: seeing how different teams construct rosters from a variety of other leagues/resources.

And, hey, it could be awfully fun to see the likes of Iginla and/or Doan leading a motley crew of young players and former NHLers. Such a thought might even get Doan to admit that he was out of bounds in blaspheming “Miracle.”

Zibanejad jumps at opportunity to be Rangers’ No. 1 center

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It’s reasonable to assume that the New York Rangers were comfortable trading Derek Stepan in part because they believed Mika Zibanejad could step into the No. 1 center role.

That puts a lot of pressure on Zibanejad, who’s never been the top pivot on an NHL team before. If that wasn’t enough, now he’ll need to justify the first big contract of his career (seeing his cap hit rise from $2.625 million to $5.35 million).

MORE: Rangers lock up Zibanejad for five years

At least he isn’t oblivious to this challenge, and as the Rangers website notes, he’s actually super happy* to raise the stakes.

“I think even before signing, seeing Derek being traded was a little bit of an alert to me that I might get a chance to play a bigger role,” Zibanejad said. “As a player, you always want more responsibility and a bigger role. It’s something that I’m working really hard to make sure that I’m … taking advantage of the chance I’m getting.”

Stepan drew criticism – arguably unfair criticism – from Rangers fans for not being quite the No. 1 center many of them wanted, so it will be interesting to see how Zibanejad handles the challenge/burden.

If you were to grade his first season with the Rangers, you might be tempted to hand him an “Incomplete.”

Injuries really limited him for much of 2016-17, but when he played, he was solid, scoring 14 goals and 37 points in 56 games. Zibanejad had a flair for the dramatic, too.

Still, in full seasons, Zibanejad’s produced nice-but-unspectacular numbers. Two straight 20+ goal seasons to finish his Senators days were helpful, but many of his stats more or less fell in line with Stepan’s production.

Now, at 24, it’s reasonable to believe that Zibanejad’s best days are in front of him. It’s also true that, while he’s received nice opportunities to succeed, he wasn’t quite getting those top-line reps that Stepan received.

In all likelihood, it will come down to expectations. If Rangers fans want Zibanejad to produce at a level far exceeding Stepan, they might be disappointed; the bar for a successful season by most forwards’ standards has changed in the NHL, and Stepan’s mostly made the grade. On the other hand, if expectations are kept in check, Zibanejad could be a very nice fit for the Rangers.

Though he might miss the Derick Brassard comparisons now that the measuring stick changed to Derek Stepan.

* – Seriously, the guy said “super happy” a lot.