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.