At this stage of Shea Weber Watch 2012, it seems as though the Nashville Predators will be unable to match the Flyers' massive 14-year, $110 million offer sheet, signed by the defenseman on Thursday.
That's not to say they absolutely won't match the offer, in which they have to sign Weber to the exact same terms he's agreed to with the Flyers, but the cards are certainly stacked against them:
- Weber is due $27 million in the next 11 months under this deal. He'll earn $13 million at signing, $1 million over the course of the 2012-13 season and $13 million next July 1 as Year 2 of the deal kicks in.
- The Predators reportedly earned roughly that much in ticket revenue last season. According to Forbes, they're only worth $163 million. They were sold for $172 million in 2007. $27 million is a lot of money for a team like the Predators to give away to one player in less than a calendar year. (Not so much for the Flyers. This is why we spend $70 bucks to sit in the mezzanine level.)
- All signs point to Weber wanting to play for the Philadelphia Flyers, too. His agent basically implied in various radio interviews Wednesday that Weber wants to play in Philly. He toured both the Wells Fargo Center and Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees early last week, according to the Daily News. He also turned down New York, calling Philly a "better fit." That seems to be a theme lately, doesn't it?
With the cards stacked against them, Preds fans have begun clinging to the idea of a potential trade. But given a trade, the Flyers still have all the control. Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn will not be playing for Nashville next season if all goes according to plan. Let's explain.
To clarify, a potential trade scenario is not possible if the Predators truly do match the offer. If Nashville matches, they cannot trade Weber for an entire calendar year. The Flyers would have the full ability to trade Weber in the event they get him, but that would be kind of silly, right?
But a trade could still happen. Remember back to 1997 when the Flyers sent an offer sheet to Lightning forward Chris Gratton. It was a nasty situation -- Tampa's ownership was a mess, Chicago was attempting to get Gratton via trade, they claimed the Flyers' offer was void due to a fax error -- but ultimately the Flyers did get their man. Instead of giving up four first round picks as compensation, the Flyers and Lightning worked a trade that sent Mikael Renberg and Karl Dykhuis to the Lightning in exchange for those four picks.
Nashville fans hope something similar happens today. Simply put, they don't want the four picks, basically for the same reasons we're fine with the Flyers giving them up: They'll all likely come late in the first round, and there's no guarantee any of them will ever become a player of Shea Weber's caliber. Couple that with how badly both the Flyers and Predators need a guy like Weber on their team right now and those four picks don't really seem like much at all.
Preds fans hope the Gratton situation plays out again, and that instead of getting those four picks, they're able to get the Flyers to send over some roster players in exchange for some or all of those draft picks.
There are three ways this could happen, in my eyes.
1. Paul Holmgren is just a super nice guy and wants to give up more value than he has to for Shea Weber.
2. David Poile is able to trick Holmgren into thinking the Preds are prepared to match the offer. If Holmgren thinks Nashville will match, he could try to negotiate a trade as a last-ditch effort to get Weber. But seriously: How is Nashville going to convince Philadelphia that they're going to match this thing? Seems unlikely.
3. The Flyers will likely need to dump salary after acquiring Weber. Weber won't push them over but after Jakub Voracek signs and they fill out the roster, they'll be over or very close. Nashville might want a guy like Andrej Meszaros or something (as part of a package) and could allow the Flyers to dump that salary on them in exchange for the picks or at least one of the picks. It helps Nashville considerably in terms of getting value in exchange for Weber, it helps the Flyers ditch some salary while also keeping those picks, and the Flyers also get Weber at the end of the day as well.
Scenario No. 3 seems the most likely, but it'll be interesting to see if Holmgren bites at all. That's the one thing to know here: If everything is as it seems and Nashville really can't match this offer, the ball is completely in the Flyers' court. If a trade goes down, it will be completely on the Flyers terms -- not Nashville's.