The idea of extending an offer sheet to a restricted free agent isnt a popular ploy that weve seen throughout the NHL. Bob Clarke was the last Flyers general manager to utilize this mechanism in an effort to acquire talent, but Vancouvers Brian Burke matched the Flyers one-year 1.9-million offer to Ryan Kesler.
In the proceeding year, the Edmonton Oilers lured Dustin Penner away from Anaheim when the Ducks failed to match a 5-year, 21-million dollar offer and the Buffalo Sabres were forced to bite the bullet when the Oilers went after Thomas Vanek at seven years for 50 million.
Of the seven offer sheets that have been submitted since the lockout in 2005, six have been matched by the team that held the players rights. The Flyers pulled off the biggest offer sheet acquisition when they acquired Chris Gratton from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1997.
The practice has been frowned upon, but the way I see it, if its within the parameters of the CBA and its the only window of acquiring highly-desired talent, then it should be strongly considered. Teams can submit an offer sheet beginning July 1, but the team who holds a players rights has seven days to match it.
Here are eight reasons I believe the Flyers should submit an offer sheet for Predators defenseman Shea Weber:
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren has to proceed as if Chris Pronger wont return. If he does, and it doesnt appear anytime soon, you simply cross that bridge when you come to it and make the appropriate moves to clear the cap space to work him back onto the active roster. Secondly, Kimmo Timonen will be entering the final season of his 6-year contract and there will be a considerable amount of wear-and-tear on his 38-year-old treads. On-going back issues could force Timonen to retire after the 2012-13 season.
Despite their rare existence, a right-handed defenseman is what the Flyers need desperately and there is no one better than Shea Weber (perhaps in a few years Drew Doughty can make a valid case). In their five-game series loss to the Devils, New Jersey consistently attacked the Flyers left-handed defensemen. The basis behind the left-wing lock that coach Peter Laviolette employs is to force a team to play the puck in the defensive zone off their backhand. It was a big part of the Flyers failure to adjust to the Devils strategy and Webers presence would help negate that obvious weakness.
If the Flyers indeed re-sign Matt Carle and announce the deal on July 1, then he needs a playing partner of Prongers caliber. Carle excelled when he was paired with Pronger and he would greatly benefit playing along side Weber. Plus, Webers addition would also give the Flyers three solid defensive pairings: Weber-Carle, Timonen-Coburn, Grossman-Meszaros.
Why take the expressway with 10-15 other teams chasing Ryan Suter when you can conveniently take the off ramp and go down a different path other teams wont travel? Unless the Flyers acquire the rights to Suter, who according to our Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio has no interest in coming to an Eastern Conference team, you have more control in submitting an offer sheet to an RFA then taking a crack on the most highly coveted UFA on the open market.
With the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in less than three months, the days of 10, 12 and 15-year contracts appear to be over. The long-term deals handed out to Roberto Luongo, Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk have been criticized as circumventions to the salary cap. If youre Weber this may be the one last opportunity to cash in on that once-in-a-lifetime megadeal that weve seen the Flyers give to Mike Richards (12-yrs, 69-million) and Jeff Carter (11-yrs, 58-million). For Weber, perhaps the price tag is 11 years at 75 million, but whatever the case, expect rules in the next CBA to prevent these cap-friendly contracts. Theres the likelihood Nashville will match the offer sheet, but the strategy is to raise the bar high enough to price the Predators out of the market.
Assuming the average annual value (AAV) of a long-term deal is below 7.8 million, the compensation the Predators would receive would be considerably lower than the package Paul Holmgren would have to put together in a straight-up trade. If the AAV falls between 6.3 and 7.8, the Flyers would have to surrender two first-round picks, a second-round selection and a third-round choice. Thats certainly not market value for a player of Webers caliber especially when you consider the Flyers essentially gave the Ducks four first-round picks for a much older Pronger ( 2 actual picks, Luca Sbisa and Joffrey Lupul) in 2009. A cap hit over 7.8 million would result in compensating Nashville four first-round picks. Right now, theres little reason to think the Predators will entertain a trade for Weber when all indications point to Suter signing elsewhere when free agency opens.
If Weber refuses to sign the offer sheet, then its quite clear he has no intention of ever playing in Philadelphia. In that case, Holmgren and the Flyers organization can proceed to 2013 knowing if you cant attract Weber now, you probably have no shot at signing him if he becomes a UFA next summer.
Are you willing to place your faith in Ilya Bryzgalov without one of the leagues elite defensemen in front of him?
E-mail John Boruk at email@example.com