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.

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell has left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and will miss Monday's game vs. the Bucks in Milwaukee.
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”
 
McConnell is averaging 4.8 points and 5.4 assists in 38 games. He has started Philadelphia’s last seven games, a stretch during which the Sixers have gone 5-2.

With McConnell out, Sergio Rodriguez will start at point guard Monday against Milwaukee.

Rodriguez started 29 of the first 30 games he played this season, his first in the NBA since 2009-10. The 30-year-old is more of an offensive threat than the defensive-minded McConnell, averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 assists.  

“You immediately go to losing that defensive energy T.J. is known for,” Brown said. “Sergio is a more gifted scorer. T.J. is a more gifted defender. To have Nerlens (Noel) and Joel (Embiid) behind the scenes, we can make up some ground with Sergio.
 
“People understand Sergio’s pedigree. He’s a 30-year-old legend in Europe. He has a wealth of experience. He’s a medalist and an MVP of the Euro league. He also was our starting point guard for a while. We’re happy to give him back that responsibility.”

No Noel
In addition to McConnell, the Sixers on Monday will also be without the services of Nerlens Noel, who is dealing with a left ankle sprain. Noel came down with a season-high 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss to the Wizards.

Still restricted
Sixers center Joel Embiid will still be on a 28-minute restriction Monday against the Bucks.

Embiid sat out Saturday’s 109-93 loss to Washington after playing 28 minutes in a 102-93 win over Charlotte on Friday. He has reached 30 minutes just once in his 27 games this season.

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

WASHINGTON — As the Flyers filed into the visiting locker room of the Verizon Center, no temper tantrums were thrown, nor were any chairs.
 
In the end, “What good does that do?” head coach Dave Hakstol asked.
 
Instead, the Flyers’ dressing area Sunday felt like a morgue. Players quietly and somberly stuffed their gear away. Once all dispersed, in walked Ron Hextall — and none too pleased.
 
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us,” he said softly, “and quite honestly, we’re not very happy right now.”
 
For a man that loathes losing more than anyone, nobody expected him to be. That much was already understood during the third-period catastrophe of his team’s demoralizing 5-0 defeat to the Capitals.
 
What wasn’t known was what follows? The Flyers have gone from 10 consecutive victories — the franchise’s longest winning streak in 31 years — to 11 losses over the following 14 games and a state of dismay.
 
As the Flyers limp into their NHL mandated five-day bye week, do players sense an imminent shakeup within the roster?
 
“It’s a good question,” Claude Giroux said, “but I don’t know.”
 
Despite never losing his sense of prudence, Hextall ruled nothing out.
 
“Obviously we always keep an eye on the big club and the Phantoms, as well,” Hextall said. “Right now, we’re going to stick with what we’ve got here and move forward. But on a day-to-day basis, I always look at how we can make our club better and, if there’s something that we think makes our club better, we’ll do it."
 
If Hextall wants to add some fresh blood from within, the organization is not lacking for young and spry prospects full of energy down at Lehigh Valley, where the Phantoms are 24-10-2 and third among the entire AHL entering Monday.
 
For the Flyers, who have surrendered a league-worst 144 goals, could defensemen T.J. Brennan, Travis Sanheim or Robert Hagg be options? Brennan owns NHL experience, has 30 points and is a plus-10 with Lehigh Valley. Sanheim, a big and touted prospect, is also a plus-10 to go along with seven goals and 11 assists. And Hagg, a seasoned 21-year-old, is “just about NHL-ready,” according to Flyers assistant general manager Chris Pryor, via ESPN’s Craig Custance (see Future Flyers Report).
 
“The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not going to happen,” Hextall said. “But if we can find a way to make ourselves better, we will.”
 
Hextall’s biggest gripe with his current team is its mental fortitude.
 
“Right now we’re making a lot of mental mistakes and it’s killing us,” he said.
 
And then it snowballs, Hextall said, which good teams prevent from happening.
 
“When things are going wrong, all of a sudden something happens and things tend to really go wrong,” he said. “That’s where we have to get better. Mentally we have to be better, have to be better. If something goes wrong, let’s move on. It happened a lot earlier in the year where things go wrong and we fought through it. Right now, the negative energy seems to be a landslide.”
 
Following the meltdown in Washington, players didn’t question the effort.
 
“We care,” Michael Del Zotto said. “No one likes losing. It’s not fun for anyone. But sometimes effort's not enough. Everyone wants to win in this league. It's a matter of execution. Whether it's offensively or defensively in all situations, we're not doing it.”
 
Hextall believes the effort has been “sufficient.”
 
“Again, the mental mistakes,” he said. “It seems like when something goes against us, it goes against us hard and that’s something we’ve got to battle through. You can’t let a little bit of adversity turn into a lot of adversity. You’ve got to nip it in the bud and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
 
As for the leadership structure and coaching, Hextall defended both.
 
“Our leaders haven’t been good enough. Neither have our lesser guys,” Hextall said. “Nobody’s been good enough right now. You don’t win 10 and then go through a stretch like this without responsibility being everywhere.
 
“Line changes, different D combinations, flipping [Steve Mason] and [Michal Neuvirth]. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried. In the end, it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens. That’s the game of sports, right?”
 
The game goes away for the Flyers this week (see 10 observations). When it returns, who knows which team we’ll see.
 
“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror, hold ourselves accountable,” Del Zotto said. “As far as changes and personnel moves, that's out of our control.”
 
That, of course, is up to Hextall.
 
“We’ve got to keep our heads now,” the GM said. “Nobody’s going to get us out of this. It’s the whole group. This isn’t about one thing or one move or one player not playing or one player playing. This is about our whole group.”