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

Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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— Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

— Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

— The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

— Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

— Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

— Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

Enjoy the games!

PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”