The Philadelphia Flyers signed restricted free agent Shea Weber to an offer sheet today that is reportedly for 14 years and worth over $100 million, with $52 million of the payout coming in the first four years of the contract, according to NHL.com.
Weber's current team, the Nashville Predators, have seven days to decide whether to match the Flyers' offer or to decline and let Shea Weber go to Philadelphia. If the Predators decline to match Weber's 14-year contract with Philly they would reportedly receive four future first-round draft picks from the Flyers as compensation.
The Predators have since confirmed Weber's signing with the Flyers and issued a statement earlier today on their website that read:
"We are in receipt of the offer sheet signed between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. Under the rules pertaining to an offer sheet, the Predators have one week to decide whether to match or accept the compensation. We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea. Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team. Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it and all of its ramifications in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term.
“We do not anticipate any further comments on this situation until we make our decision within the next seven days.”
Click below to read more on Weber's deal with the Flyers, as well as the Rangers jumping into talks to try and acquire the defenseman before the Flyers signed him.
My initial reaction when I read this was that it amazes me how teams are still finding loopholes to sign guys to massive front-loaded deals that Gary Bettman has tried to unsuccessfully eliminate from the game over the past several years. Anyway you want to slice it, a guy getting $52 million over the first four years of a a 14-year, $100 million contract is ridiculously front-loaded. I'm not going to be a hypocrite here, though, because Glen Sather sort of configured Brad Richards' contract last offseason in the same way so that he's earning most of his money in the first few years of his contract, although even Richards' deal wasn't nearly as front-loaded as Weber's rumored deal. Bettman, if you remember, negated the Devils' original deal with Ilya Kovalchuk a few years ago because he felt that there was too big of a drop off in salary in the later years of the contract, but overall it's entirely a judgment call. There's no set rules as far as what's allowed and what isn't, so it really depends on if Bettman and the owners who vote on it deem the contract to be acceptable.
Meanwhile, Larry Brooks of The New York Post reported earlier today that Glen Sather had been "engaged in an extended dialog with both Shea Weber and Nashville GM David Poile aimed at bringing the franchise defenseman to Broadway," but Weber apparently was not fond about the idea of living in Manhattan and felt that even living in Westchester would have "isolated him from his teammates." Well, OK then. If that's true then maybe somebody should remind Shea that Philadelphia isn't exactly a small, quiet town to live in, either.
I know this goes against the popular opinion, but I never truly wanted Shea Weber here on Broadway. With Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, and Dan Girardi anchoring this defense for years to come, plus kids like Dylan McIlrath and Tim Erixon on the way within the next few years, the idea of tying up so much money into signing Weber when the Rangers have glaring holes to fill offensively just seemed like wasteful spending to me. I'm not taking anything away from Shea Weber, as I think he's a fantastic defenseman, but I just really didn't see the need for him unless you're telling me it would've enabled Sather to include either Staal or Del Zotto in a deal to bring an offensive star like Rick Nash here.
There's also the whole thing about signing other restricted free agents to offer sheets that I have a problem with. It isn't done as frequently in the NHL anymore as much as it is, say, in the NBA because there tends to be a whole unwritten code amongst veteran GMs that signing a guy to an offer sheet - especially one that's front-loaded - is frowned upon since the previous CBA was agreed upon in 2005. Since then there have only been seven offer sheets handed out, and just off the top of my head I can't remember any of them being for a player as good as Shea Weber is. That's why Brooks pointed out in his story that Sather was talking to Preds GM David Poile; because he wasn't going to just sneak in and sign Weber right from under Poile's nose since it would look underhanded for a GM as widely respected as Glen Sather around the league. If you start doing that you run the risk of other GMs taking runs at your own restricted free agents in the future. Whether or not that will happen with upcoming RFAs on the Flyers when they're up for a new contract remains to be seen.
But, alas, it's all a moot point now anyway. The Predators could take a huge PR hit from their fans if they let both Shea Weber and Ryan Suter leave in the same offseason for nothing, especially since this was a team that made a deep run into the playoffs this past season. My gut feeling based on the statement that the Preds issued, though, is that they will not match the Flyers' offer. Obviously, I really hope I'm wrong, but it just seems like they're changing their original position that they would match any offer sheet for Weber and are now trying to spin it to their fans that they never anticipated him getting such a ridiculous contract like this. And if that's the case, and Nashville doesn't match, it's certainly bad news for the Rangers to have to play against a player of Shea Weber's caliber multiple times a year in their own division.