Flyers' Front-Loaded Weber Deal Is for 110 Million, Preds on the Clock

Flyers' Front-Loaded Weber Deal Is for 110 Million, Preds on the Clock

When news broke overnight that the Flyers and defenseman Shea Weber had agreed to an offer sheet, Darren Dreger's report did not specify the exact dollar amount of the offer that enticed the highly coveted restricted free agent to sign, saying only "upwards of $100 million."
This morning, Nick Kypreos of SportsNet breaks down the offer as follows:

It's simultaneously a ton of money overall and somehow also a reasonable deal for the Flyers, but the upfront and early year bonuses will be the key in whether Nashville GM David Poile can afford to make good on his pledge to match any offer sheet. His previously stated position was understandable in that it may have kept an offer or two from being made to Weber's camp alone, rather than trading with the team (along with the overall rarity of NHL GM's trying to snipe RFAs at all). But can Nashville match that coin, even amidst a presumed need to spend up to the current NHL salary floor (which is subject to change as part of the labor negotiations and next CBA)? 
The coming week will determine whether that was a bluff or a promise.
Many folks seem to believe Poile will stay true to his pledge and match the offer, but it's clearly not as simple as just crossing out "Philadelphia Flyers" on the current offer sheet and scrawling in "Nashville Predators." And, there's a growing sentiment that they simply might not be able to afford matching, even if they wanted to.
While we'd like to think the Preds would want the situation resolved expeditiously (which benefits our own lack of patience), this could be a long week while the Flyers and the rest of the league wait to see what Nashville will do. Presumably, they've been crunching numbers on what they can afford all along, but a fair amount of short- and long-term budgeting and number crunching is obviously warranted in a franchise-altering deal like this. If the Predators can't or won't match, there could be other reasons why they wouldn't come out and say so before they have to, not the least of which is the pride of not wanting to promptly admit being unable to afford to keep their transient Cup-contending team together. Having already lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild this month, the Preds and their fans would be that much more devastated to lose Weber too. 
Paul Holmgren has made his move, guaranteeing that if Weber is leaving Tennessee, he's coming to Philly and nowhere else. If he's not destined to be a Flyer, we don't have to worry about seeing him patrolling the blue line for an Atlantic foe over the next decade-plus. Dreger listed the Rangers among a small group of teams who were in the hunt for Weber. In so doing, Homer has also painted Poile into the kind of financial corner that has presumably made RFA offer sheet deals largely taboo among GMs. Of course, these two guys know each other well and have a history of trading together. Poile's dad was also the first GM of the Flyers.
However, reports (notably the initial tweets from Dreger) indicate that the Flyers grew tired of waiting as Nashville sat on Weber trade offers. Friendship, collegiality, and family ties all have their limits, and there was always the possibility that any of the interested teams could do exactly what the Flyers just did. This is not a front office that enjoys waiting around while others dictate the market landscape. And of course, there may be more to the negotiations than we currently know; Flyers beat man Dave Isaac points out that while the money is going to be tough to match, Homer's agreement with Weber also effectively paves the way for Weber to stay in Nashville for the next 14 years if the Predators so choose, something a lot less likely to happen if he went to unrestricted free agency next year. And, he doesn't end up hanging his jersey in Nik Lidstrom's locker stall. 
But the Flyers' agreement with Weber isn't designed merely to make him a rich Predator/non-Penguin-Ranger-Red Wing; in addition to needing to make it sweet enough to entice Weber to leave Nashville, the architecture might also be designed to include a financial wall the Preds might not be able to scale. While it appears to pass The Kovalchuk Test both in terms of league legality and the presumption that Weber should actually be able to play fairly well until its term expires, the bonuses on the front end are massive, including a total haul of $27 million in the first year. As Travis at BSH mentioned in a post on the difficulties Nashville faces in matching, Forbes recently valued the entire Predators franchise at $163 million. By comparison, the Flyers come in at $290 million.
Weber has obviously made his move too, solidifying his financial future as best he can with a looming NHL labor climate hellbent on limiting what players of his caliber can earn and where they can earn it. We won't know what's left standing until a new CBA is reached, but perhaps after seeing the early reports on the owners' demands, Weber's side wanted to move before any changes were in place. They found a willing partner with deep pockets in need of a franchise defenseman, a team that hasn't shied away from the kinds of long-term deals that the next CBA may abolish... 
Stay tuned, it should be an interesting week. 
Matt P. contributed to this posting.

Best of NBA: Russell Westbrook posts 5th straight triple-double in Thunder's win over Pelicans

Best of NBA: Russell Westbrook posts 5th straight triple-double in Thunder's win over Pelicans

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook became the first player with five consecutive triple-doubles since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989 and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 101-92 on Sunday night.

Westbrook finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. The Thunder have won all five games during Westbrook's triple-double stretch. It was Westbrook's 10th triple-double of the season and the 47th of his career.

Enes Kanter had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Victor Oladipo added 15 points for the Thunder.

Anthony Davis, the NBA's leading scorer, had 37 points and 15 rebounds for the Pelicans. Buddy Hield, who led nearby Oklahoma to the Final Four last season, scored 16 points in his first game back in the state (see full recap).

Rose, Anthony help Knicks hold off Kings
NEW YORK -- Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony each scored 20 points and the New York Knicks held off the Sacramento Kings 106-98 on Sunday night for their eighth win in 11 games.

The Knicks took a 21-point lead in the first half, gave up 18 consecutive points in the third quarter but outplayed the Kings down the stretch to win their third straight overall and improve to 9-3 at home.

Brandon Jennings added 19 points for New York and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

DeMarcus Cousins had 36 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings, but shot just 9 for 30 and looked fatigued while struggling late while playing the entire second half (see full recap).

Ibaka's big night leads Magic past Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Serge Ibaka scored 21 points and blocked four shots, helping the Orlando Magic beat the Detroit Pistons 98-92 on Sunday night.

Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Magic.

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson made his season debut after missing Detroit's first 21 games with knee tendinitis. He had 18 points in 23 minutes. Marcus Morris led Detroit with 21 points.

Orlando won for the third time in four games while Detroit had its three-game winning streak snapped.

On Jackson's first possession, the Pistons went to their bread-and-butter play -- he and Andre Drummond running a high pick and roll. Jackson came off the screen and hit a 3-pointer, bringing a cheer from the small crowd. Jackson played the first 5:50 of the quarter as Detroit built a 16-10 lead (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens avoid winless California trip with SO win over Kings

Best of NHL: Canadiens avoid winless California trip with SO win over Kings

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Byron scored the clinching goal in the fourth round of the shootout, and the Montreal Canadiens avoided a winless swing through California with a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist for the Canadiens, who won for just the second time in seven road games. Montreal had only one win in its previous 11 games in California before scoring three times in the four-round shootout.

Alexander Radulov and Andrew Shaw also scored and Carey Price made 27 saves for the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens.

Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist apiece for the Kings, who lost for only the second time in eight games. Peter Budaj stopped 26 shots (see full recap).

DeKeyser gives Red Wings OT win over Isles
NEW YORK -- Danny DeKeyser scored 1:02 into overtime to give Detroit a victory over New York.

Mike Green scored twice and Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and assist for Detroit, which improved to 4-1-2 in its last seven games. Peter Mrazek stopped 32 shots to improve to 3-0-2 in his past five starts.

Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk and Josh Bailey scored for New York, which had won a season-high three straight. Jaroslav Halak finished with 30 saves.

Detroit's Frans Nielsen had an assist while facing his former team for the first time since leaving the Islanders for a six-year, $31.5 million deal with the Red Wings last summer. The 32-year-old Danish center was selected by the Islanders in the third round of the 2002 draft and had 119 goals and 230 assists over 10 seasons in New York (see full recap).

Late goal lifts Jets over Blackhawks
CHICAGO -- Andrew Copp scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:45 left, Bryan Little got his third goal in three games and Winnipeg edged Chicago.

Copp beat Scott Darling on the stick side with a shot from the right circle that slipped just inside the left post.

Chicago's Artemi Panarin scored with 6:54 remaining to tie it at 1, moments after Copp hit the post, to spoil Connor Hellebuyck's bid for a second shutout against Chicago in less than a month. Panarin completed a give-and-go with Patrick Kane, beating Hellebuyck to the glove side.

Hellebuyck finished with 25 saves and outdueled Darling, who started his second straight game for the Blackhawks in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford. Darling made 30 saves, including three on breakaways.

Little's power-play goal with 43.4 seconds left in the second period was his fourth point in four games since missing 23 with a lower-body injury (see full recap)