Flyers lose out on Weber as Nashville matches offer

Posted: July 25, 2012

The Flyers have struck out with another marquee free agent - and this one hurt more than the others.

Nashville announced Tuesday afternoon that it had matched the Flyers' 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to star defenseman Shea Weber, a restricted free agent.

Small-market Nashville had toppled the big-market Flyers, leaving them empty-handed in their search to replace the injured Chris Pronger.

Earlier in the day, two sources said the Predators had not been involved in trade talks with the Flyers since the 6-foot-4, 232-pound Weber signed the offer sheet last Wednesday.

If Nashville hadn't matched the offer, the Flyers would have gotten Weber and given the Predators their next four No. 1 draft picks. If Nashville had wanted, it could have made a deal with the Flyers for not matching the offer sheet. In that case, it would have received the Flyers' four No. 1 picks, then could have sent some back for NHL players.

In a news release, Nashville said, in part, "Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with 'deep pockets?' "

To avoid that "negative message" - and, more important, to keep arguably the NHL's best all-around defenseman - Nashville's 10-member ownership group was able to justify the staggering contract, which is the second-largest in league history. Washington's Alex Ovechkin signed a 13-year, $124 million deal in 2008.

Since 2005, six of the seven restricted free agents who have signed offer sheets have been retained by their original teams.

"We were trying to add a top defenseman entering the prime of his career," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement. "With Nashville matching our offer, we wish Shea and the Predators all the best."

Holmgren, who still is trying to resign restricted free-agent winger Jakub Voracek, said he would have no further comment.

Nashville called the signing "the most important hockey transaction in franchise history."

Weber, whose 99 goals are the most by any NHL defenseman over the last seven seasons, cannot be traded for one year - and likely will remain with the Predators for the rest of his career.

So where do the Flyers go from here? Do they try to sign unrestricted free-agent winger Shane Doan, whose preference is to remain in Phoenix? Do they attempt to acquire Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan, Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle, or San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle?

Or will Holmgren roll the dice again and give an offer sheet to another restricted free agent such as defensemen Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers, P.K. Subban of Montreal, or John Carlson of Washington?

Make no mistake, this is a major setback to the franchise. A team with Claude Giroux and Weber as its anchors - with a terrific young nucleus - would have been a perennial Stanley Cup contender.

The Flyers had front-loaded the contract - $27 million in the first calendar year, $68 million over the first five seasons - to make it difficult for the financially strapped Predators to match it.

"He's excited. He said the ownership group stepped up, and that's a positive sign," said Jarrett Bousquet, one of Weber's agents. "That's what he wanted - commitment from the ownership group."

The Flyers also were unsuccessful in trying to land unrestricted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter earlier this month. Both signed 13-year, $98 million deals with Minnesota.

Unlike those stars, Weber wanted to play for the Flyers.

Give the Flyers an 'A' for effort, but the bottom line is this: They are no better than the team that lost in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season.

After hearing that the Flyers didn't land Nashville's game-changing defenseman, one fan tweeted: "I'm so bummed I don't even want to use my Weber grill tonight."


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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