Hockey Talkie: Preds Matching Weber Offer Sheet A Pivotal Move
If the Nashville Predators truly had any interest in winning, they had to match Philadelphia’s offer sheet for Shea Weber. No question.
The match was a pivotal move for the club, and one the team itself described as “the most important hockey transaction in franchise history“.
Even after matching the Philadelphia Flyers’ offer sheet of $110 million (hold on, they were gonna pay him how much to play hockey? Wait, Nashville IS paying him that much??) over 14 years (third longest in NHL history; second highest total value), the Nashville Predators still retain plenty of bankroll breathing room – they’re only 24th in league payroll, with nearly $16.5 million in cap space still available. So yeah, they did have to match Philly’s offer for their captain/best player. They NEED him, plus financially, it’s not like they had to move money around to make it work – they straight up could afford it.
If Nashville didn’t match, the Predators likely would have sunk this season, save for Pekka Rinne again playing out of his mind all year, this though without an all-star bolstered blue-line anymore. And you can’t expect a hot goalie to play in front of that kind of mediocrity for long before he also joins the mass exodus in an effort to actually win somewhere.
Additionally take into account the roster exits the Predators do have to address — Radulov back to the KHL, and Jordin Tootoo to Detroit – also subtract Weber, and Smashville’s roster wouldn’t exactly have looked primed to improve on its Conference semi-final appearance last season.
And the message sent to fans and fellow players would have been one to the tune that the Predators really weren’t all that committed to success – that they weren’t willing to do what’s necessary to keep top talent that has proven their ability to help the team win, on the team; that they’re ok with just seeing how far they can go with what they have on hand. That’s not a message anyone can get behind.
If Philadelphia did indeed acquire Weber as hoped, then as Nashville would likely fall, the Flyers would likely rise in return – perhaps even enough to finally get them over the Cup hump. They’ve got scoring, they’ve got goaltending (in Bryzgalov, somewhere, I’m sure of it. The guy just needs to come back to earth), and they have defence too – but Weber could have been the perfect replacement for Chris Pronger, whose future remains in jeopardy after injuries sustained last season. Though he gives up two inches in height and eleven years of NHL experience, Weber’s eleven years younger, faster, heavier, shoots harder (multi-time runner up to Zdeno Chara for league’s hardest shot) has nearly as much experience as Nashville’s captain as Pronger has as Philadelphia’s, and even a little bit of crazy (see: Zetterberg head smash) in him, just like Pronger, and he can score from the concession stand if he has to (much to the chagrin of all Nashville’s healthy scratches). I can’t see that being anything but a smooth swap – and even more potent if Pronger manages to return.
But Nashville did match. And they still have Weber. For a really long time. But 14 years ought to be long enough to find someone he can move the puck to (Alexander Semin, anyone?), and to build a better team around him, and Rinne. And if for some reason it doesn’t work out, they can trade him after a year, as Weber has no NTC built into his deal. Tough salary slack for another team to absorb, but their “out” is there. The match meant the Predators kept a pivotal player, their team leader, around 50 points a year, and it sent the right message to their team and fans. Good move, Nashville.