So that was a boring free agency period in the NHL, no? At least it was from the Philly perspective. Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr split town, and all the Flyers got in return were Michael Leighton, Bruno Gervais, and Ruslan Fedotenko. Guess we'll just be moving along here...
Not so fast says GM Paul Holmgren, who had an absolute bombshell of a move up his sleeve after all. Out of nowhere, TSN's Darren Dreger breaks the news around 1 a.m. on Thursday morning that Nashville Predators defenseman and restricted free agent Shea Weber has agreed to an offer sheet with the Flyers, and you may want to sit down before you read these numbers: 14 years, upwards of $100 million.
However, don't start dreaming of Weber in Orange and Black quite yet. The Preds have seven days to match the offer, and early indications are that they would try do exactly that.
Weber, who turns 27 in August, is regarded as one of the top all-around defensemen in the NHL today, and putting him on their blue line would instantly stabilize the back end for the Flyers. At 6-4, 234 lbs., the three-time All Star is load of a man who can shut down one side of the ice, who also happens to be excellent in the offensive zone as well as evidenced by the 18.5 goals and 48.3 points he's averaging over the past four seasons. He plays big minutes, he plays on the power play, and he's a leader. He's everywhere.
At $100 million (the exact figure is not yet known), the contract would carry an average cap hit of $7.1 million per year, and the total years and money are not significantly more than ex-teammate and fellow blue liner Ryan Suter recently received from the Minnesota Wild on the open market (13 years, $98M). However, if Nashville doesn't match, the Flyers will be paying a price, one that is far greater than cold hard cash -- the compensation could be as steep as four first-round draft picks.
There may be some debate as to whether any player is worth handing over that much of the future to obtain, but the Flyers do have something going for them in that regard. There is a ton of young talent on the team already, so most of the needs they are anticipating over the next several years would be filling holes left behind from guys they can no longer afford to keep. Of course, that's another issue altogether, how the front office can reconcile another huge, long-term commitment under the always tight cap.
As for Nashville's part, the initial consensus is not only will they match, they must. Puck Daddy points out GM David Poile previously claimed the team would match any offer. However, up until now the team had been exploring trades for Weber, but the Flyers obviously threw a wrench into that plan. Even still, there is also a line of thinking that even if the Preds want to match, it could become a sore spot between player and franchise if Weber wants out either way, or they may not be able to pony up a huge up-front bonus. PD covers some of the intricacies nicely, so it's worth a read if you're looking to go more in-depth.
At this point, who knows what will happen next. Nobody was expecting this at all, especially given how rare it is for teams to go after restricted free agents in the NHL. We're still struggling to wrap our heads around the development at this late hour. Obviously the initial reaction is this would be amazing if it went through though. The Flyers had one of the league's most prolific offenses last season, but there are plenty of questions remaining on the back end. Shea Weber would solve a lot of them. It's a huge contract, it's a huge cost, but it sure sounds totally worth it.