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:
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) July 19, 2012
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.