Now, after striking out on Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Weber this summer, the Flyers will need to focus their efforts elsewhere.
"In tendering an offer sheet to Shea Weber, we were trying to add a top defenseman entering the prime of his career," Holmgren said in a statement. "With Nashville matching our offer, we wish Shea and the Predators all the best."
For some, the reaction was hardly a surprise, as Nashville general manager David Poile said for months that the Predators would match any offer sheet.
For others, including a handful of current NHL executives, the thought was that Nashville would not be able to pay Weber a full $27 million between now and next July 1. In fact, the first $13 million signing bonus was due to Weber on Tuesday, the day the deal was officially consummated.
In reality, Nashville's owners had little choice in the matter. Match Weber's offer as the second-richest contract in league history or become the incredibly irrelevant Columbus Blue Jackets overnight. In doing so, Nashville defended the rest of the league's small-market teams against big bullies like the Flyers.
On paper, the Predators knew that their captain needed to return — regardless of whether the deal made fiscal sense, whether Weber wanted to be back in the Music City, or even if the Predators would be as competitive as last season.
Finally, after 14 years in the league, the Predators carved out such a niche, cult-like following in Nashville over the past two or three winters that they were risking complete alienation by not bucking up.
"Most importantly was the reaction to whatever decision the organization reached and the impact it would have on our fans, sponsors and marketing partners," the Predators said in a statement. "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."
On the ice, the Predators already lost Suter — who bolted for $98 million in Minnesota on July 4 — and will not be as strong as last season, even with Weber back.
Part of the reason for matching was the on-ice return. Poile knew he could not let their two top defensemen walk in exchange for just four future first-round draft picks. You could easily make the case for Weber as the league's best all-around defenseman, now that Nick Lidstrom has retired.
So, why did the Predators wait this long to match an offer they knew they were going to accept? The Flyers simply weren't willing to budge on their offer.
According to multiple reports, Holmgren and Poile spent hours on the phone last week in trade talks for Weber's rights before the Flyers finally got fed up and put in the offer.
The resulting 5 days were a high-stakes game of chicken. Since Weber was not allowed to be traded, Nashville threatened to match, hoping the Flyers would cave and send prized pieces such as Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn to them in exchange for some of the picks back.
For Nashville, a trade was a chance to duck out on a potentially crippling financial deal while selling the idea to their fans that the team may be better off in the long run.
For the Flyers, a trade made little sense. With those terms, Weber would have cost something like $110 million over 14 years, Couturier or Schenn, an NHL defenseman, and two first-round picks. One source said blossoming Braydon Coburn's name came up, though it is unsure how his modified no-trade clause impacted those talks.
Even though Weber is an absolute stud, that's a heck of a commitment for a mere mortal player who is subject to injury and concussion like anyone else.
Holmgren should receive a standing ovation at the first home game of the preseason. Yes, the Flyers have, in essence, gone home empty-handed this summer. But none of those three stars ended up in the Flyers' conference, which is equally impressive.
Holmgren made a strong push, structuring a nearly intolerable contract by using the Flyers' big-market swinging hammer and Ed Snider's checkbook, for a seismic shift in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers would have been instant, odds-on Stanley Cup favorites.
It's important to point out that they didn't lose anything in the process. The Flyers' offer was smart, shrewd and fun to watch.
This summer, Holmgren's message has been consistent and stern with his young players. They've held off shipping any of them to other markets thus far — including deals for Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan.
That's why it needs to continue to remain consistent in the remaining weeks of the summer, to avoid overcompensating to fill holes while still making a splash. After Weber, no defensive commodities even remotely size up. Right now, that is the Flyers' biggest weakness. They have no replacement for Matt Carle or Chris Pronger — and an aging Kimmo Timonen has just 1 year left in the tank.
They could also use a first-line right winger to skate with Claude Giroux. That's where 35-year-old Shane Doan could come in, though that is likely to involve a bidding war with a handful of other teams. If Doan is going to leave Phoenix for Philadelphia, it needs to be at the right price.
As currently assembled, the Flyers are not as strong as the team that skated off the ice against New Jersey. Unlike Nashville, the Flyers do not need to convince their fans they are willing to do whatever it takes. The Flyers were even willing to risk alienating a huge swath of teams in the NHL with their bullying tactics in order to prove it.
Holmgren's bat is back in the bag now. Knowing him, it may not be there for that long. n
Contact Frank Seravalli at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DNFlyers. For more Flyers coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers.