Preds match Flyers' offer sheet for Shea Weber
After what appeared from the outside as an excruciating 5 1/2 days of internal organizational debate, the Nashville Predators said Tuesday they will match the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet that Shea Weber, their captain and franchise player, had signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Weber signed the front-loaded offer sheet from the Flyers last Thursday. By matching that offer, the Predators committed to paying Weber an enormous amount of bonuses over the next six years. The bonuses, according to reports, are for $27 million in the first calendar year and $68 million over the first six seasons.
In his new deal, Weber will average $13.3 million over the first six seasons — a virtually unprecedented sum in NHL history. The Predators had until 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday to match the offer, otherwise, Weber would have become a Flyer.
Having already lost All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter to Minnesota on July 4 after Suter signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild, the Predators would have been gutted if they had lost Weber. Their compensation from the Flyers would have been four first-round picks had they elected not to match the offer sheet.
Weber has finished second each of the past two seasons in balloting for the Norris Trophy, which is given to the NHL's top defenseman. Suter might be a smoother skater — Suter's average time on ice ranked third in the NHL last season — but the 6-foot-4, 232-pound Weber provides size, menace, leadership and offensive skills, qualities that differentiate him from Suter. And Weber's average time on ice still ranked fifth in the NHL.
Weber's 19 goals last season were tied for the most in the NHL by a defenseman. With Weber, 26, in his prime, the Predators have advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs the past two seasons.
Now, the Predators can go about trying to fill in the roster around Weber — they already have re-signed defenseman Hal Gill, centers Paul Gaustad and Colin Wilson and left wing Sergei Kostitsyn — to try to build on what they have done.
Predators chairman Tom Cigarran and CEO Jeff Cogen issued a joint statement about their decision to retain Weber:
"Most importantly was the reaction to whatever decision the organization reached and the impact it would have on our fans, sponsors and marketing partners. We wanted to ensure that our decision reflected not just the feelings of these groups but also conveys a strong message to them that our actions would speak for us and demonstrate our commitment to them. It was absolutely essential that they understand and believe that we are doing everything possible to ice a Stanley Cup competing team each and every season."
The Flyers had hoped to obtain Weber in order to replace Chris Pronger.
''In tendering an offer sheet to Shea Weber, we were trying to add a top defenseman entering the prime of his career,'' Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. ''With Nashville matching our offer, we wish Shea and the Predators all the best.''