History says Preds won't match Weber offer
Predators general manager David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz have referred to it repeatedly as “The Predators’ Way” – a small-market mentality that has defined the Nashville franchise since its inception in 1998.
It’s a mentality that losing core members through free agency is just a way of NHL life because “no one is above the team.” It’s been a message sent to the fan base that the organization won’t engage in big-market bidding for premiere talent.
I’ve heard the phrase numerous times as Poile has been forced to replenish the cupboard. Fortunately for the Flyers, Poile has been a victim of his own success. Having covered both organizations, you quickly understand that unlike the Flyers, the Predators will never adopt a “win-at-all-cost” mentality. The Nashville Predators are coupon clippers. The Philadelphia Flyers buy only brand name products with little regard for prices.
So if they strictly adhere to “The Predators’ Way,” then it would dictate there is no way the Predators will match the Flyers’ front-loaded 14-year, $110-million offer sheet for Shea Weber.
Let’s look at it strictly from the side of Predators ownership, who let’s face it, are ultimately the deciding factors in this whole process. For a $110 million dollar price tag, you would like a guarantee to come along with it. However, with the recent free agent loss of Ryan Suter, there’s nothing to promise the Predators would be a better team moving forward even by retaining Weber at this point.
Until 2011, they had never won a playoff series, much less made a serious run at a Stanley Cup Championship, and that was with the best defensive tandem in hockey to go along with a Vezina-level goaltender. So what does Weber buy you? For the Predators, it’s a perceived commitment to winning along with harmony within its fan base and not much more than that.
Secondly, over the past year, the organization has finally worked its way back to financial stability after inheriting the debt left from the previous owner William “Boots” Del Biaggio. If the Predators match the offer sheet, they are consequently also cutting a $13 million check. In a one-year span, they will have paid out $27 million, and $80 million over a six-year period. If you’re Predators CEO Jeff Cogen, you have to be asking yourself whether Weber makes strict financial sense moving forward in the short term, especially with the threat of a lockout once the current CBA expires in September.
Also, the franchise has proven to have a rock-solid foundation when it comes to the two most important pieces within the hockey operations: the general manager and the head coach. Poile and Trotz have been together for 14 years and they know how to re-invent themselves and continue to put a winning product on the ice.
Since the lockout, the Predators have won at least 40 games every year, including a franchise-best 51 wins with 110 points in 2006-07. After losing Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell (to the Flyers), and starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun, Nashville still managed to earn 91 points and a playoff berth the following season.
Take a long look at the quality of defensemen they’ve either dealt away or have lost through free agency and you won’t find an organization more equipped to rebuild or reload than the Nashville Predators.
Weber and his team of agents have stated he wants to be a Flyer. If he wanted to remain a Nashville Predator, Poile would essentially give Weber the $90 million offer he presented to Suter plus a little bit more and this would all be settled. Instead, reports surfaced that Poile was fielding trade offers for Weber, which became a sure sign the Preds' captain was essentially buying his way out of town.
“The Predators’ Way” has also dictated that the organization wants players who want to be in Nashville. For $110 million, why would you want a player who’s only lukewarm in staying in Middle Tennessee?
So how does this all shake out?
It’s my feeling Poile doesn’t want to be left with absolutely nothing and have Weber follow Suter out the door with fans looking for a refund on their season ticket package for 2012-13. When the Flyers signed away Chris Gratton from Tampa Bay back in 1997, then GM Bob Clarke also dealt Karl Dykhuis and Mikael Renberg to the Lightning with the first-round picks returning to Philadelphia.
Holmgren – as a way of putting Weber in Orange and Black while also maintaining some good will with Poile – will offer to exchange players on his roster in return for picks. The most likely candidates appear to be forward Jake Voracek and defenseman Andrej Meszaros, two players without trade clauses. While Poile would plead or demand for Brayden Schenn and/or Sean Couturier, that simply won’t happen. A combination of players would allow Nashville to work their way back up to the salary cap floor while giving the team players who can contribute right away.
If I’m Poile, I keep all four first-round picks. For Holmgren, four first-round picks plus a couple of current players is a steep price to pay for Weber, but a franchise defenseman doesn’t come around too often, and as history has shown us, you can’t win a Stanley Cup without one:2007
- Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer (ANA)2008
- Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)2009
- Kris Letang (PIT)2010
- Duncan Keith (CHI)2011
- Zdeno Chara (BOS)2012
- Drew Doughty (LA)
Then again, the Predators could go out of their way and simply match the Flyers' offer sheet. But it just wouldn’t be “The Predators’ Way.” E-mail John Boruk at firstname.lastname@example.org