BREAKING NEWS: Predators Match Shea Weber’s Offer Sheet


This afternoon, the Nashville Predators officially ended #WeberWatch and matched the 14-year, $110M offer sheet that their captain, defenseman Shea Weber, signed with the Flyers last Wednesday night. This means that Shea Weber will be in Nashville for the foreseeable future, since he has a no-movement clause for the first calendar year of the contract, and there’s no way Nashville would trade him after paying him $27M in one calendar year. The Predators were reportedly receptive of a deal to move Weber to Philadelphia, but Paul Holmgren lowballed them (reports were that he offered them Matt Read, Andrej Meszaros, and a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick) and attempted to see if the Predators would hold true to their word: that they would match “any offer sheet” Weber received. After failing to work out a trade, Holmgren pushed all his chips to the center of the table and called Nashville’s bluff. And lost. Big time.

Where do the Flyers go from here? It’s tough to say. Shea Weber was what the Flyers needed. A big, tough, physical, nasty defenseman who could both shut down opposing scoring lines and score goals himself, something the Flyers have lacked since Chris Pronger tragically suffered what looks to be a career-ending concussion early last season. Acquiring him would have been like acquiring Chris Pronger in his prime. And now he’s gone. Nashville somehow came up with the money to match. Whether it was a yard sale, lemonade stand, looking under couch cushions, or taking out a second mortgage on the house, they managed to get it done. There’s no defenseman on the market who is even close to Weber’s caliber. It looks as if the defensive corps going into next season will be Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn, Andrej Meszaros, and some combination of Marc-Andre Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson, Bruno Gervais, and Andreas Lilja. In front of Ilya Bryzgalov, that simply doesn’t look like a Cup-winning (or even Cup-contending) defense. It’s got many solid players and has good depth, but no #1 star. Timonen is an excellent puck-mover, but he’s not in Weber’s neighborhood defensively.

The offense still looks very solid, and now that #WeberWatch is over, look for the Flyers to agree on a contract extension for RFA Jakub Voracek. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 years with an average annual value of $3-4M. Paul Holmgren surely can’t be content with how his team looks now, however. He’s currently looking at a team that lost in 5 games in the 2nd round of the playoffs that lost its top-line RW (Jagr), promising top-6 LW (van Riemsdyk), and 2nd-best defenseman (Carle). In return, the team added a young defenseman with lots of question markes (Luke Schenn), a bottom-6 forward (Ruslan Fedotenko), and a 6th or 7th defenseman (Bruno Gervais). To be blunt, that offseason is horrendous. As of now, here’s how the roster shakes out for next season:










That team does not look like a Cup contender to me. Especially not with the Rangers owning the Flyers last year and dramatically improving themselves yesterday by trading for Rick Nash. Especially not with the Penguins still boasting an offense with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz. Especially not with the 2010 Cup champion Boston Bruins ridding themselves of the Tim Thomas distraction and welcoming back 2010 playoff hero Nathan Horton from a concussion. Especially not with the Ottawa Senators on the rise with a young core of talent led by Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson. I’d mention the Western Conference teams like the offensively-explosive Vancouver Canucks, defensively-dominant St. Louis Blues, and defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, but the Flyers won’t get anywhere near the Stanley Cup finals with this roster.

What can Paul Holmgren do? He could try extending an offer sheet to Montreal’s PK Subban. He’d be an excellent addition to the defense. But Montreal would seem to be able to easily match the offer with their massive fan base and revenue. He could try to bolster the offense with an offer sheet to Winnipeg’s Evander Kane or Dallas’ Jamie Benn. But both of those would be unlikely to succeed. He could try to trade for a defenseman like Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester or Phoenix’s Keith Yandle, but Bouwmeester is overpaid (a $6.6M cap hit) and not particularly productive and Phoenix’s asking price for Yandle is astronomical. Besides, both of them are offensively-minded (Yandle especially), which wouldn’t fill Flyers’ main need on the blueline. He could wait until the 2013 offseason and add a defenseman in free agency. Of course, the only marquee defenseman in that class (Shea Weber) is no longer going to be a free agent. And Kimmo Timonen is an unrestricted free agent then, too, who will most likely retire. So, barring a minor miracle, the Flyers will go into the 2013 season without their top 3 defensemen (Pronger, Timonen, Carle) from the beginning of the 2012 season. Oh joy.

There are two marquee players still available in free agency as of now: Shane Doan and Alexander Semin. Doan has been with the Coyotes’ franchise since they were still the Winnipeg Jets, but the unstable ownership situation has him testing the free agent market. He visited with the Flyers yesterday, and would add roughly 20 goals and 50 points to the Flyers’ offense, along with hard-nosed, physical play and leadership. Semin, meanwhile, is known as a lazy player who doesn’t work hard, but there’s no denying his offensive talent (40 goals in 2009-2010), and he’s got a wrist shot that was crafted by God himself. A relatively short deal (2 years is ideal for me) would keep him motivated, and there’s no doubt that he’d be very productive on a line with Claude Giroux. With the Flyers currently boasting roughly $7.81M  in cap space for next season in addition to having Chris Pronger’s $4.92M able to be put on long-term injured reserve (and thus taken off the salary cap) if they need it, they’ve got enough money to add one of these players, and potentially both. However, I’d rather not overbid for them, especially not Doan because of his age. Doan is 36 years old, and under the NHL’s current CBA, contracts signed when the player is 35 or older count against the cap until they expire, even if the player retires or cannot play due to injury. That’s the issue the Flyers currently have with Chris Pronger, and that’s why he hasn’t retired yet: because putting him on long-term injured reserve at the start of every season frees up cap space for in-season moves by the team.

A final option for the Flyers would be to re-kindle trade talks with the Anaheim Ducks for RW Bobby Ryan. I’d love to see Ryan wearing the orange and black, but only for the right price. Andrej Meszaros and a 1st round pick sounds awesome to me. Meszaros, a 1st, and a 2nd? I’d still do it. But if this turns into Meszaros and Matt Read plus picks or Meszaros and Voracek, I’m not sure that I’m on board. Ryan is a very good player, but sacrificing quality players and quality depth for someone who doesn’t fill the Flyers’ biggest area of need doesn’t thrill me. I would not be surprised if Ryan ends up with the Flyers next season. I also would not be surprised if Holmgren overpaid for him. Homer loves to make bold moves, and he could feel pressured into overpaying for Ryan after striking out on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in unrestricted free agency, having Shea Weber slip through his grasp in restricted free agency, and watching the Rangers acquire Rick Nash. The “keeping up with the Jones’s” effect is a real thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Homer fall victim to it.

If I was running the Flyers? I’d lock up contracts with RFAs Jakub Voracek and Marc-Andre Bourdon, then work on contract extensions with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. I’d make offers to Shane Doan and Alexander Semin: 3 years, $12M to Doan, 2 years, $11M to Semin. If neither one of them signed (or even if one of them did), I’d make an offer to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan: Andrej Meszaros, a 2013 1st round pick, and a conditional pick depending on how Ryan and the Flyers perform this season. I’d kick the tires on Jay Bouwmeester and Keith Yandle. It can’t hurt to see what the market is, right? Hell, I might even try to get PK Subban to sign an offer sheet. It can only turn out positively for the Flyers. Either Montreal matches and the status quo is kept or they don’t and the Flyers get Subban. There’s no downside there. Just disappointment. There are a lot of different ways the rest of the Flyers offseason could go from here, but none of them are as good as signing Shea Weber would have been. The Flyers went from a potential Stanley Cup favorite to a team that doesn’t have the look of a Cup contender. Let’s all just hope that Chris Pronger’s concussion magically heals itself. Sure, that would be something of a divine intervention, but that’s what Nashville’s owners (and more specifically, their checkbooks) seemed to get this afternoon.

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