Having lost one All-Star defenseman to free agency two weeks ago, the Nashville Predators are in danger of losing another unless they choose to match a reported $100 million offer sheet to restricted free-agent defenseman Shea Weber, their captain.
The Philadelphia Flyers confirmed the offer sheet through a press release issued at 8:01 a.m. ET.
“The Philadelphia Flyers have signed restricted free agent (D) Shea Weber to an offer sheet. There will be no further comment at this time,” general manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement.
Darren Dreger of TSN reported overnight that the offer sheet — a rarely used tactic in the NHL — was for 14 years and more than $100 million. Nick Kypreos of SportsNet reported that in the first six years of the deal Weber would be paid $80 million — an average of $13.3 million — and $68 million of that would come in the form of bonuses.
The Predators, who previously said they will match any offer sheet for Weber, issued a statement from general manager David Poile:
“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.”
If the Predators choose not to match the offer sheet after seven days, then Weber will become a Flyer, and Nashville, as compensation under the league’s expiring collective bargaining agreement, will receive four first-round picks. If the Predators choose to match, Weber, who turns 27 in August, would remain a member of the Predators
On July 4, the Preds lost Ryan Suter, Weber’s defense partner who was an unrestricted free agent, to the Minnesota Wild. Suter signed a 13-year deal worth $98 million. Weber has been the runner-up for the past two seasons for the Norris Trophy, which is given to the NHL’s top defenseman. Losing Weber for four first-round picks would cripple the franchise in the short term.
The Predators have made the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons — one of the few NHL teams to do so — and have advanced to the second round in each of the past two. Weber, Suter and goaltender Pekka Rinne, signed to a seven-year, $49 million extension in 2011, were considered the cornerstones of the franchise and three players who management believed, if they remained together, would help the team compete for a Stanley Cup.
Dreger tweeted that the contract is structured in such a way as to pay Weber massive up-front dollars. Under the CBA, the maximum salary a player can earn is 20 percent of the salary cap, which is set at $70.2 million for 2012-13. That means Weber could earn up to $14 million per season in his first two seasons under the offer sheet and that much of those dollars could be paid in the form of a signing bonus.
As a result, Dreger reported that the deal would pay Weber $26 million in a single calendar year: $14 million in salary and bonuses in the first year and then a second $12 million bonus on the first day possible at the start of the 2013-14 season.
Weber played under a one-year, $7.5 million contract in 2011-12, which gave him the highest salary-cap number of any defenseman in the league. That contract was arrived at through team-elected salary arbitration.
With the salary cap set at $70.2 million, the minimum spending required by the league’s economic system is $54.2 million. According to the Web site CapGeek.com, the Preds must spend $13.3 million more simply to reach the floor — more than any other NHL team.