BREAKING NEWS: Flyers Offer-Sheet Shea Weber


Late last night (or early this morning), at approximately 1:00 AM (12:49 AM Eastern, to be exact), TSN’s hockey insider Darren Dreger dropped an absolute bombshell when he tweeted the following: “Breaking: Shea Weber agrees to offer sheet with Philadelphia. 14 years, upwards of $100 mil. Preds have 7 days to match. Wow!!”. And with that, the hockey world was flipped upside-down.

See, in hockey, offer sheets are extremely uncommon. There have only been seven players (including Weber) who have signed offer sheets under the new CBA. It’s partly due to the new CBA (compensation is steep-more on that later) and partly because there’s something of a gentlemen’s agreement between NHL GM’s that offer sheets just don’t happen. In fact, many GM’s take it extremely personally when one of their players is signed to an offer-sheet by another GM. In 2007, when Dustin Penner, then an Anaheim Duck, signed a 5 year, $21.25M offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim GM Brian Burke was reportedly so incensed that Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe (who was a good friend of his at the time) would sign Penner to an offer sheet (the Ducks were coming off a Stanley Cup victory and were pressed against the salary cap) that he reportedly tried to rent a barn in Lake Placid to fight Lowe in before being told off by commissioner Gary Bettman.

Nashville GM David Poile has always had a good relationship with Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren and the Flyers in general. The reality of the situation is that Nashville is one of the smaller markets in the NHL, and they can’t often afford to keep their players when they hit unrestricted free agency (ex: Ryan Suter). Poile knows this, and he has teamed up with the Flyers before to get some sort of value for these players. Most notably, he acquired Peter Forsberg from the Flyers at the 2007 trade deadline and sent d the rights to unrestricted free agents Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to the Flyers for a 1st round pick later that year. If Poile didn’t think he could keep Weber monetarily, it would make sense to work out a trade for one of the top 3 defensemen in the league rather than lose him for peanuts, which could happen now. The Flyers, with their solid relationship with Nashville (though perhaps not for long) and their need for a top defenseman, would seem to be a good fit. Dreger also reported that the Flyers had been trying to negotiate a trade with Nashville for some time, but they grew frustrated with the lack of progression in the talks and got fed up, signing Weber to the massive deal. But an offer sheet, if successful, is infinitely better than a trade. For a player of Weber’s caliber, the Flyers would have likely had to give up something akin to Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn (and with Luke Schenn now in Philadelphia, it was probably going to be Cooters), Jakub Voracek and/or Matt Read, Andrej Meszaros or Brayden Coburn, and a 1st round pick or two.  Perhaps more. A steep price to pay for Weber, blowing up the team’s young core just a season after acquiring it.

Nashville has two choices here: match the Flyers’ offer sheet (and pay Weber $100+M over the next 14 years), or allow him to go to the Flyers and recieve 4 1st round picks as compensation. I know what you’re thinking: “CAN the Predators afford to match Weber?”. The answer is yes, at least under the salary cap. The Predators have the least amount of money committed to the $70.2M salary cap next year at just over $40.85M, per Capgeek. However, the team may not be able to afford the deal in terms of real dollars. Nick Kypreos reports that the deal is structured so Weber receives $1M of salary and $13M in signing bonuses each of the first 4 years of the deal, followed by $4M in salary and $8M in signing bonuses in years 5 and 6, followed by $6M in salary in years 7-10, $3M in salary in year 11, and $1M in salary in years 12-14, totaling $110M over the next 14 years. That means that, since signing bonuses are usually paid out prior to July 1st, the Predators would need to pay Weber $56M between now and July 1st, 2015. Fifty-six million dollars. And that means that the Predators would have to pay Shea Weber $27M in the next 347 days. Twenty-seven million dollars. In less than a calender year. That’s Dr. Evil money right there. Can Nashville afford that?

I know the Flyers can. The Flyers are owned by Comcast, and Comcast is made of $$$. And it makes sense for Ed Snider. He’s 79 years old. He doesn’t care about money anymore. All he wants is another Stanley Cup win for his Philadelphia Flyers, his baby, his pride and joy. In 2006, the Flyers signed Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, then an unproven young player who is now a supremely talented two-way forward to a 1-year, $1.9M offer sheet. Vancouver matched, and afterwards the Flyers were quoted as saying that their “only regret was not thinking to make the offer hard to match”. They certainly did that this time. Nashville’s franchise was valued at $163M in 2011 according to Forbes. Can they really afford to pay one player, regardless of how talented he is, $26M in one calender year? However, Nashville is on record as saying that they’d match any offer sheet to Weber. Now it’s time to put their money where their mouth is. However, I can’t see Nashville not matching this offer sheet. They’ve told their fans that they’re willing to spend the $ to be a consistent Cup contender, that things are different now. They’ve said that the days of Thomas Vokoun, Dan Hamhuis, Peter Forsberg, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, and the like leaving in free agency are gone. That they’ll spend as much money as is necessary, like the big boys of the hockey world. That they won’t be a farm system for the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings any longer. And yet, how can you say those things and then let Ryan Suter and Shea Weber depart in free agency in the same offseason? If the Nashville Predators DON’T match this offer sheet, I’m not sure how they can look their fans in the eye. But how will things shake out? I’d put it at a 75% chance that Nashville matches it, 25% that they don’t. Here’s what the offer sheet’s fallout could look like as a result of both courses of action:

If the Predators match the offer sheet:

The Flyers will be sorely disappointed, but they’ll likely turn their attention to contract extensions with restricted free agents Jakub Voracek and Marc-Andre Bourdon, and will perhaps get themselves back into the Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash sweepstakes. They will maintain room under the salary cap for potential in-season trades, and leave themselves oodles of cap room and flexibility for the 2013 free agency period (almost $8M in cap space now, with Kimmo Timonen’s $6.33M cap hit and Scott Hartnell’s $4.2M cap hit set to expire, among others). They’d likely use the money to sign Claude Giroux to a massive extension to keep him away from his own restricted free agency in 2014 and to give Scott Hartnell a contract extension. With a new CBA pending, who knows what the future salary cap might look like? The Flyers would maintain flexibility no matter what the new cap situation looks like.

If the Predators do not match the offer sheet:

The Flyers instantly become a Stanley Cup favorite. They’ll be right up against the current salary cap, but with Chris Pronger’s contract being able to be put on long-term injured reserve, they’ll probably be able to get enough salary cap relief to get creative and fit everyone under the cap. In order to sign Jakub Voracek to a contract extension and stay under the cap, the Flyers would likely try to trade Andrej Meszaros or Braydon Coburn (with Meszaros being far more likely to move). If neither is traded and Voracek is simply tendered his qualifying offer and no one offer-sheets him, the defense goes from a potential question mark to one of the best in the league next season. The roster next year in that scenario would likely look something like this:










Looks pretty good, no? If Coburn/Meszaros is traded, newly signed Bruno Gervais, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson, and Andreas Lilja are all waiting in the wings to fill in as the 6th defenseman. This team is a Cup contender this season with Weber, and with Timonen’s large contract expiring after the season, they’ll still have roster flexibility past this season. If Nashville doesn’t match, it’s a great time to be a Flyers fan.

P.S.-it’s nothing we didn’t already know before, but this offer sheet definitely means that Chris Pronger’s career is over. They wouldn’t be throwing $110M at the best comparison to a young Chris Pronger if the old one was ever going to play again.