Flyers' creativity for Weber hampers Preds
HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- The key to the Flyers' Group II restricted free agent offer sheet to Shea Weber isn’t the sum total of 14 years and $110 million.
It’s not the $7.857 million salary cap hit which the Predators were always willing to pay to re-sign their captain.
No, the key is the $14 million salary/bonus structure the Flyers have worked into the deal for the first four years of the contract, reported by TSN and confirmed late Thursday by league sources.
That’s $56 million alone that the Predators, a team which draws on the NHL’s annual revenue sharing reimbursement plan, can’t afford to pay out.
Especially when everyone knows the next CBA will likely see the salary cap go down.
“Hopefully, they can’t [afford it],” said one Flyers source.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, without elaborating, told CSNPhilly.com late Thursday night that while the clock may be ticking on the Predators to "match" the Flyers' offer, Nasvhille can still turn this situation into a trade agreeable to both parties.
Whether that means trading back draft picks to the Flyers for current roster players remains to be seen.
There is precedent here. Tampa Bay GM Phil Esposito did this in 1997 to void out the Flyers’ then unheard of five-year, $16.5 million offer sheet to Chris Gratton, orchestrated by then Flyers' GM Bob Clarke.
Espo claimed he never got the offer sheet in its entirety due a fax machine malfunction. Clarke agreed to make it a trade and help Esposito out of an embarrassing situation.
Back to the present: A few weeks ago, CSN’s John Boruk and I said on "SportsNite" that the Flyers' best hope to get an impact defenseman wasn’t wasting time competing with other teams for Nashville's other guy, Ryan Suter, in unrestricted free agency, but to gamble with an RFA offer sheet for Weber.
When the next CBA comes down, these kind of long-term, heavily-front loaded deals that top-five revenue producers like the Flyers can afford are likely to be curtailed to appease two-thirds of NHL clubs that can’t afford them.
Teams such as Nashville, which struggles now to make money, simply can’t afford contracts structured like this with so much salary up front.
The best thing about the Flyers' gutsy move here is that they finally got it right.
There was no way Suter and Zach Parise were going to sign here. That was an exercise in futility and it allowed Matt Carle time to assess the field and sign elsewhere, leaving the Flyers rather weak on the back end.
General manager Paul Holmgren did what he does best – he took the club’s resources and gambled that fewer teams would be willing to play hardball on an RFA offer sheet.
This is what separates the real "players" at the table from the wannabes.
Preds’ GM David Poile reportedly could have made a trade with the Flyers, but Holmgren wasn’t parting with Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.
Anaheim’s Bob Murray wanted both those players for Bobby Ryan and was turned down, as well. Columbus’ Scott Howson couldn’t get either of those Flyers for Rick Nash. Holmgren wasn’t trading them. Not even for Shea Weber.
Poile is in an impossible, no-win situation here.
He’s already lost ½ of his franchise players in Suter. If he loses Weber, where does that leave the team long-term, not to mention himself in terms of job security?
What does it say to the Preds' fan base, not to mention its viability as a Stanley Cup contender?
Weber, who turns 27 next month, is a tough, nasty defenseman who is the current "Chris Pronger" of his generation. He'd replace Pronger, who will likely never play again because of post-concussion syndrome.
Holmgren tried to put on a brave front in arguing that the Flyers were fine on the blue line with the additions of Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais a few weeks ago. They’re window dressing. Neither was in Carle’s category, let alone the five-star stratosphere of Weber.
Assuming Nashville caves, the Flyers now have a defense that is far better than it was last season, with Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson and perhaps Shea Weber.
And there is sill Marc-Andre Bourdon, Andreas Lilja, Gervais and Andrej Meszaros, who is presumed to be OK recovering from back surgery.
Bottom line, the Flyers did better here than mortgaging $210 million for Suter and Parise.
Now it becomes a situation of waiting out the clock.
For Nashville, however, it’s pretty grim.E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com