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Examining some popular arguments for/against matching Weber’s offer sheet

Jul 22, 2012, 7:59 PM EDT

Shea Weber AP

The Philadelphia Flyers’ 14-year, massively frontloaded $110 million offer sheet for Shea Weber has produced a lot of passionate and varied responses from the hockey community. Well respected writers and analysis have attacked the question of whether or not Nashville should match the contract from a variety of angles.

I want to take a moment and examine those arguments with the intention of offering some counterpoints and supporting evidence. Without further ado, here are some of the ones that have caught my eye:

The Nashville Predators need to reach the salary floor anyways, so why wouldn’t they match Weber’s offer sheet?

I personally like this argument and it’s one I’ve made, so in the interest of fairness, we’ll start by picking this one apart.

First and foremost: We don’t know what the salary floor will be yet because we don’t have a new CBA. Right now, we’re operating under the assumption that the salary cap will be $70.2 million and the floor $54.2 million, but there’s a good chance that won’t be the case.

However, let’s assume for the moment that will be the floor when they enter the season, it’s still not that simple. Weber’s cap hit will be roughly $7.86 million annually, but he will reportedly earn $27 million in the first calender year of the deal.

There are far cheaper ways to get to the cap if the Predators don’t feel like they can handle the frontloaded nature of Weber’s contract. For example, Montreal’s Scott Gomez comes with a $7,357,143 annual cap hit, but he’s owed $5.5 million in salary next season.

The Predators need to match Weber’s contract in order to maintain their status as a relevant franchise.

This is a bit of a tough one because ultimately, it’s hard to gauge what fan interest will be like in a non-traditional market after losing two of their most popular players. At the same time, a franchise is basically relevant as long as it exists.

If the argument is that a player won’t sign with Nashville because they let Shea Weber slip out of their hands, well, that might be true for some of them, but Nashville has stayed competitive largely by developing their own talent anyways. Guys like Ryan Suter and Weber might leave the first chance they get, but as long as the Predators maintain their farm system, it won’t keep them down for long.

Already, as dark as things might seem for Nashville, the fans can take comfort in the fact that they got a pretty promising core of young blueliners in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Jonathon Blum. I’m not saying that they will be the next Weber and Suter, but it’s not like they have no contingency plan.

Besides, at it’s core, suggesting that free agents in general won’t go to a certain franchise feels somewhat misleading because they don’t all act the same. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise passed on teams like Pittsburgh and Detroit to sign with Minnesota, so it’s not like free agents simply seek out the biggest market with the best track record of success.

The Predators need to rebuild and what better way to do that then to take the draft picks

There’s certainly logic in this argument as the prospect of having an extra four first-rounders has its appeal. They’ll likely be late first-round picks, but then Weber was taken with the 49th overall selection in 2003.

That being said, I do want to offer a couple of counterpoints for you to consider. First off, those draft picks are naturally a huge risk. The Flyers might collapse one season, a 27th overall pick might be the next Weber — but it’s also possible that they could end up with four AHLers. We just don’t know.

It’s that risk that’s the reason why you typically don’t see a young superstar traded exclusively for a bunch of draft picks under normal circumstances. If you’re giving up a guy of Weber’s caliber, you want something a bit safer and more tangible in return.

One possible compromise is that the Nashville Predators could trade those draft picks back to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for some established NHLers or promising prospects.

The other counterargument is that Weber is only 26 (27 in August). Even if you’ve resigned yourself to the notion that the Predators need to rebuild, Weber is still young enough to be a leader once Nashville comes out from the other end.

It will be awkward to keep Shea Weber after he signed with Philadelphia.

Weber is going to be a very rich man regardless of what happens, but as we’ve seen before, the act of getting paid isn’t always enough to keep a player happy with his situation. If it was, guys like Rick Nash wouldn’t ask to get traded.

That being said, when Weber signed a 14-year deal with Philadelphia, he had to know that Nashville had the option of matching it. That might not be his preference, but if he didn’t think it was a possibility, then he was just deluding himself.

Weber’s agent has stated that his client doesn’t want to go through another rebuilding process. At the same time, he also left the door open to patching things up with Nashville if they chose to match the deal.

Also, let’s not forget that Weber would not be the first big name star to sign an offer sheet and end up sticking with his original club. For example, back in 1997, the New York Rangers and Joe Sakic agreed to an offer sheet. Sakic went on to spend the rest of his career with Colorado.

The nightmare scenario for Nashville isn’t that they match the offer sheet and then Weber refuses to play because that seems incredibly unlikely. The real nightmare scenario is that they match the offer sheet and then three or four years from now — after they’ve already paid him a large chunk of the contract because of it’s frontloaded nature — he asks to be traded.

That fear might end up weighing on the Predators minds as much as the financial implications as they consider their options.

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  1. scionofflame - Jul 22, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    I like this article, Ryan. A very good way to lay it all out and presents the arguements that us (Preds fans) and our local coverage guys/bloggers have been having for a few days now.

  2. mclovinhockey - Jul 22, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Agreed, comes close to hitting all the points well. Scott Gomez and Tim Thomas might have to be options for Nashville no matter what.

    If they match they are way over why they usually spend and still need to fill about 5 mill in cap space to hit the floor (depending on the floor)

    If they let him walk, they can spend the money right and go for guys like the two above to hit the floor and save cash.

  3. tjv027 - Jul 22, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    What people don’t seem to understand is that the salary floor argument is actually an argument that favors Nashville not matching. Yes they are $13 million below the floor, but paying Weber $26 million in one calendar year only gets them to 6 million below the floor. So in addition to paying Weber the $26 mill, they have to pay other players to take on at least $6 in cap space. This is a team that, if I remember correctly, struggled to make $26 million TOTAL at the gate last year. If it was Poile’s call, I’m sure he would want to match. But if ownership has any intention of actually turning a profit in the next decade, they simply don’t have the cash for this contract. Don’t match, work out a trade to send two firsts back to Philly for some young guys and a player or two that can make an impact next year.

  4. mojosmagic - Jul 22, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    If one looks between the line Nashville was attempting to trade Weber before he signed the Flyers crazily front loaded offer sheet. Why would they sign him now and be responsible for 68M in the first 4 years of the deal with 27M due Weber in the 1st fiscal year? Why would they sign a guy who doesn’t really want to be there? It would basically bankrupt their franchise and inhibit them from making other needed improvements. Weber is a Flyer and it is only a matter of Nashville receiving back some fair compensation.

  5. theawesomersfranchise - Jul 22, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    Wait a sec….
    Where is the argument “THE PREDS CAN’T AFFORD TO MATCH” that was so popular?
    Rushing to get loans and being denied, fear of a lockout, yadda yadda.

    • flyersgoalscoredby88 - Jul 22, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      Did you read the article? Pretty sure the “Weber costs $27M in one calendar year but gets them only 7M closer to the cap” is only relevant due to their spending threshold. I think they’ll match. They can afford to match if they really want to.

      • theawesomersfranchise - Jul 22, 2012 at 10:18 PM

        Oh, Im well aware best Flyer fan who comments here. I was just giving McLovin’s chain a yank

      • icdogg - Jul 23, 2012 at 12:56 AM

        Playing devil’s advocate they would be paying $27M in one calendar year but only $1M in the next twelve months. All that really means, is that they wouldn’t be trading him after one year, since they would have paid his bonus before they are allowed to. Are they that cash strapped?

      • 28giroux28 - Jul 23, 2012 at 11:58 AM

        @icdogg Isn’t 12 moths a calendar year? You’re correct that only $1M in salary would be due, but the $26M in bonuses ($13M uopn the completion of the deal, another $13M before next July 1st) is the tricky part. Can the Preds match? Possibly. Will they match? Another question entirely.

    • stevierod - Jul 23, 2012 at 8:21 AM

      Its the first one listed where they talk about how much money Weber is going to be due to make THIS YEAR versus his actual CAP HIT. The Predators cannot afford to dump that much money into one player, and still not be at the salary cap floor. It doesn’t make fiscal sense given they can get other players to fill voids which would be more fiscally responsible.

      I get your all for the Preds keeping Weber, hell, I would too but I don’t know if they can do that. The article makes a good point, if it was up to Poile he would probably match, but its not up to him… The ownership is going to see the front loaded dollar figures and panic, its a lot of money for a franchise that doesn’t spend like that.

      • theawesomersfranchise - Jul 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM

        Funny

        Too bad they are going to match and all your yammerings will be for not.

  6. mclovinhockey - Jul 22, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    @Fran…. Most these comments are that argument. The preds can’t afford to match. That’s a fact. If they do they will be in financial trouble.
    What they are considering right now is do we put the franchise in trouble with money and the cap or with the fans.

    • stevierod - Jul 23, 2012 at 8:25 AM

      Agreed. If they match that contract they will be the Coyotes in 3 years, and Nashville deserves better than that. They proved that small markets can thrive, but it has to be done with good business decisions.

  7. atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 22, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    In listening to Prime Time Sports this past week I heard that there’s a conspiracy theory going around amongst GM’s, and it goes like this: the Flyers and Predators organizations are very close, they’ve made several trades with each other have a good working relationship and David Poile’s dad used to be the president of the Flyers. The Preds were struggling to get Weber signed so they and the Flyers came up with a plan where the Flyers would sign Weber to the offer sheet, Nashville would match this would allow Nashville to keep Weber for as long as they want and the Flyers to look good for their fans by being aggressive.

    I don’t think I believe it but it was discussed by Elliotte Friedman and John Shannon after they had heard about it from an unnamed GM.

    • icdogg - Jul 23, 2012 at 12:39 AM

      Sounds crazy and I don’t believe it but it’s an imaginative scenario.

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 23, 2012 at 8:03 AM

        I agree, I don’t believe it either but apparently at least one GM does according to Friedman and Shannon.

    • eightyeight2ten - Jul 23, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      If this were the case it seems like the offer sheet would be at least slightly friendlier for the Preds to match, instead of so front-loaded it would be almost punitive for them to match.

  8. icdogg - Jul 23, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    Clearly their owners can afford to match. But not with the resources they have thus far allotted to the team. They would have to put up some more of their own funds. And especially with a potential lockout, they might be feeling as if they are in more than they bargained for.

  9. mclovinhockey - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    Fran wants to yank my chain??

    27 mill in one year for a 7.8 cap hit for a team who is looking to squeeze every penny they can is irrational at best.

    Once again, never said it was 100% just said it was smarter for the owners and gm to not match the way they run their franchise.

  10. highlander24 - Jul 23, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    What about this scenario? Predators let Weber walk, get Philadelphia’s high draft picks as compensation. They then send the picks to Columbus who wants young talent as part of a Rick Nash trade. Predators get a high caliber scorer instead of a high caliber defenseman and it truly becomes Nash-ville. It’s definitely possible. Plus Preds don’t have to run the risk of having Nash for as much time or money as they would be forced to with Weber. That is, unless that’s the only way they could resign him if they wanted to when the time comes.

    • guelphdad - Jul 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

      The problem with that is Columbus ALSO wants two NHL ready players. So is Nashville ready to give up on Weber AND deal away two other players (among other pieces) to get Nash?

  11. highlander24 - Jul 23, 2012 at 6:13 AM

    It’s a win-win-win for all three teams but then again Nashville might be hesitant to dump off all of those good draft picks if they let Weber go. Everyone likes draft picks. It’s reasonable for each team though.

  12. guelphdad - Jul 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    I think Nashville lets Weber walk, then they don’t handcuff themselves with that deal. Will their fans really walk away just because they’ve lost their top two defencemen? Some might, but all they have to do is continue to put out a good product and they’ll continue to have interest in the team. Think about how many people swore they were off hockey after 2004-05, and look at how well the league has done in revenue terms since then.

    The franchise has to step up in the next year though, they can’t be seen to let those two guys go and then just pick up their pucks and go home. They need to be active in trades/free-agency.

    Will they replace the caliber of those players immediately? Unlikely, but at the same time if they handcuff themselves to Weber’s offer sheet, they may pass up on other pieces down the road simply because they have so much invested in Weber.

  13. jayrod1089 - Jul 23, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    if i am nashville i really do not know which way i would go on this… the heavily frontloaded deal might steer me awayy because they have more needs then just signing weber and basically being close to broke for a couple seasons trying to make moves to free up cap in phillys view defense is one of there only needs after loosing prongs a guy like weber would solidify that defense and give you a little bit more of a offensive threat coming from the blue line and with their young guns and key pieces in place i can see why their willing to throw that much money at weber

  14. meynbass - Jul 23, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    I truly hope Nashville matches. I do NOT want to see Weber in the Atlantic Division for 14 years

  15. jkaflagg - Jul 23, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Really fascinated as to how this will turn out…..assume the teams are talking trade (would return at least some of the Flyers picks to Philly in exchange for several players the Flyers must move for salary purposes), and I assume the Flyers would not include Schenn or Couturier….but if the Preds say they’ll definitely match if they don’t get the player(s) they want – will the Flyers cave ?

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