Should we take the Shea Weber offer sheet at face value?

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 14: Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators eyes the scoreboard during the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bridgestone Arena on February 14, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Flyers have signed RFA defenseman Shea Weber to a massive offer sheet. We're talking biggest-contract-for-a-defenseman-in-NHL-history massive here. It's silly big. Incomprehensibly big. Over $100 million across 14 years.

Can we think about how long 14 years is for a second? 14 years ago, Shea Weber was 12 years old. Pre-pubescent.

It really feels like a slap in the face to the Predators, doesn't it? The poor team thinks it can play with the big boys, and then out of nowhere Ed Snider comes downstairs. He looks over to see Paul Holmgren on the couch playing Xbox and eating a Fred Flintstone Push-Up pop. He smiles.

"You've been very patient this so far this summer, Homer," Snider says. "Here's your reward."

Snider whips out his Amex Black Card, handing it over to his drooling general manager, orange sherbet dripping from his face.

"Go buy everything. Whatever you want. Bring it home and we'll play a game or 82 or 110."

And off he goes to the mall. Preds general manager David Poile's standing there pathetically outside of his cute little store, knowing he's about to be robbed blind. Can't help but pity him and all of his loyal customers.

But is Holmgren really out to rob Poile, a friend he's done business with many times in the past? What are Holmgren's true motives here? What does Weber really want? Let's look at a few theories. All speculative, of course, but we might have seven days of wondering about all of this. Might as well get some of it out of the way now.

Theory: Take it purely at face value. The Flyers want Shea Weber to fill their gaping hole on defense, and they weren't ready to wait for a trade to work itself out. By putting up this offer sheet, they're calculating their best opportunity to get their new toy. Homer's sick of buying those damned Push-Up pops. He wants his new car, and he wants it now. No ulterior motives here. It's exactly as it seems.

Theory: Indirectly, the Flyers are doing Nashville a favor. This doesn't mean the Flyers are just trying to be nice guys here. Not at all. There's certainly no doubt they want Weber and they're comfortable with the price to pay on this contract.

But as a side effect of this offer sheet, it could really help the Preds out quite a bit. We'll let On the Forecheck explain.

I don't believe that Shea wants out. If he did, why would he risk being stuck in Nashville for 14 years? Some are suggesting the Preds should match and trade him after the first year of the new contract, but I see that as the least likely scenario, ASSUMING they don't go broke by the second year.

And of course, that "going broke by the second year" thing is a pretty big concern. We don't know the structure of this deal just yet, and with numbers reported at perhaps nearly $26 million in a single year of the deal, it's hard to imagine Nashville doing anything but going broke on that deal.

But assuming the Predators match the offer, it'll virtually ensure Weber stays there for the rest of his career. The Preds have always said that's exactly what they've wanted. And at the same time, by choosing to accept the Flyers' long-term offer, he's not necessarily saying he wants to play in Philadelphia. He could just as easily be saying he wants to stay in Nashville -- after all, he's now put the ball completely in Poile's court.

If the Preds put pen to paper, Weber is almost certainly in blue and gold for life.

If he's leaving himself this vulnerable to the potential of spending 14 years in Nashville, he's either comfortable with the idea or he knows more than we know -- he knows Poile can't match the Philly offer.

One problem: No evidence Weber wants to stay in Nashville. Weber has had all the time in the world to date to make a long-term commitment in Nashville, something he's clearly yet to do. He's had literally years to sign that long-term deal there. Now, he's waited 19 days before signing anything this RFA period, and the first thing he's signed has come from the Flyers, not the Predators.

It's common knowledge now that the Preds were exploring the trade market. Poile wouldn't be doing that if Weber truly wanted to stay. That leads me to believe the latter -- that by signing the offer from the Flyers and leaving himself vulnerable to the chance of spending the rest of his career in Nashville, he thinks Poile won't match.

Theory: The Flyers were trying to block a trade to a rival club. It was reported that the New York Rangers were one of four teams in on potential Weber trade before this offer sheet business. The Flyers were also included in that group along with San Jose and Detroit.

So what if the Flyers realized they were out of the running for a potential trade? They didn't want Weber to go to the Rangers or the Red Wings, so Paul Holmgren pulled out that Black Card and ran up to the limit. (That's a limit set by the CBA, not American Express, as far as we know.) He used the last trick in his repertoire to try to at best get Weber in orange and black and at worst keep him away from the God-damned Rangers.

Eyes On The Prize floated that theory early this morning. More from them:

The Flyers looked at their competition and knew they couldn't offer up the kind of package that longtime trade partner David Poile would accept for Weber. Someone else was getting him, and that someone could definitely have been the Rangers. The Rangers are good enough without Weber, and already facing the Penguins as a main division rival is tough enough.

So Paul Holmgren made a move to ensure that he could both sell his fans on how he tried everything to improve the team (which is true in this case), but also ensure that Weber would only sign with him or with his good friend back in Nashville (they've made deals on high quality players like Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, and Peter Forsberg in the past).

That'd be pretty damn slick, and I'm not sure I'd put it past Paul Holmgren at all. And it seems to align at least a little bit with Theory No. 1, that the Predators don't really mind this offer sheet all that much. We know that while these offer sheets are as legal as any other tactic a team can use, they're also often taboo amongst general managers.

But if Homer has Poile's unwritten assurance that this isn't so bad -- in fact, perhaps even beneficial to the Preds -- it makes it all a little more clear. Hmm.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook and on Twitter. And for more on this still sorta-unbelievable story, check in with our friends over at Predators blog On the Forecheck.

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