So, the Shea Weber conundrum has been discussed to death, no? Well, here’s to beating a dead horse Rocky-style!
Situations like this are the reason why so much investment has been made in “game theory.” You have multiple stakeholders in this circumstance that affect the value of the outcome for each side at the negotiating table. There are many ways that both sides can go, but at the end of the day, it’s nothing more than a staring contest, awaiting the first blink. Allow me just a few moments to break down some of the cards that the two sides hold, and I’ll give you what I think should happen but will happen.
There is a lot of talk about the Flyers gamble of throwing an offer sheet at Weber. I detest the contention that it was “thrown” at him. Despite past history, this contract was VERY carefully thought out and executed. I have a feeling Snider may have had much more to do with this than Homer, but the balls to go after Shea in the first place I’m sure belonged to our fearless GM. Unlike last year, I don’t think Homer was publicly backed into a corner, as when he was forced to sign a big-name goalie and had very little negotiating power. This year, Homer publicly made big offers to initial targets, and has kept other possible options on the backburner to show that he can afford to lose the staring contest. He and his club have gone in with nothing to lose, besides opportunity cost. Because of that, there is no need to sacrifice the future for this acquisition (unlike the Lindros trade).
Prior to the offer sheet, Poile was heavily involved in trade talks with multiple clubs. While his asking price was very high, it’s no secret that he’s failed to sign Weber to anything beyond arbitration for some time now. The clear implication is that he was in a last ditch effort to get value from his unwilling star. I’m sure from talks with Weber and his agent, even more inside information came to light regarding prior negotiations. The public statement “we will match any offer sheet” was completely nullified by the willingness to trade him.
The dire straits of the Nashville financial situation appears to be a precursor to situations similar to that of Phoenix and the late Atlanta Thrashers. I disagree that Snider and Homer are bullying a small market team with an offer sheet that would cripple the Nashville franchise. I think they went hard after their primary target and offered an out for the Nashville franchise who was likely going to lose Weber to UFA the following season. Poilse was likely his own worst enemy in getting greedy with his required return, as no team that would be able to use Weber would be insane enough to pay the asking price (much like Howson’s demands for Rick Nash).
Flyers have the capital to give Weber what he desired: A long term contract that pays a whole lot of money. The front-loading was likely as much a desire of Weber as it was intent to prevent Nashville from matching. I applaud Pekka Rinne for his willingness to work with the financial restrictions of his franchise (although I’m not sure how much credit I can give to someone still earning $49 million dollars). Weber is truly a star like none other in the league, and with help from his agent knows that there is a huge market for his services with a rapidly closing window. He had a choice: take advantage of circumstances or be a victim of them. Who would choose to be a victim? Just look at the contract Matt Carle received and you have to realize that now is the time to get your contract!
I have no doubt that Weber signed the Flyers offer sheet with the intent of going to the Flyers. He is a competitor and a competitor wants to win. The loss of Suter put up an immediate roadblock with his current franchise that just raises a ton of questions regarding their ability to compete and to win moving forward. The Flyers are an immediate cup-favorite with Weber on the roster, without him having to be the sole savior. So, let’s recap a moment: Less pressure, chance to be major contributor, truck load of money, and an impressive shot at the cup (or perhaps multiple cups). If Nashville matches, at least he still gets his money, but that is probably the least likely scenario given the previous trade talks. Nashville was ready to move him.
So now, with only a few days remaining to the deadline of the deal, we weigh the options. Flyers put themselves in a great place to set the terms of the deal. While they don’t want Nashville to match, they really have nothing to lose. A match means they are no worse off than they were before, with plenty of options still available. I do agree that a Gratton style trade will be the end result, as it benefits all parties. While Nashville will not get their original asking price for a trade (not like they ever would have to begin with), they will still get a king’s ransom. Flyers could easily take the bullying road and not even discuss a trade, and likely still come out the victors. If they do not win Weber, they have effectively eliminated a potential opponent, as well as forced their division rivals NOT to get the prized D-man. By agreeing to a trade, I see Nashville receiving a still-strong defenseman, a top 6 up and coming winger, and a nearly NHL-ready prospect. The depth on the Philly roster will prove to be the major advantage, as they have pieces to give that they really don’t have an immediate use for.
With the contract Shea wanted all along, Nashville cannot build a competitive roster. Flyers can. Plain and simple. With the pieces coming back in a potential trade situation (for not matching and returning a 1st round acquired in the offer sheet), Nashville now has the pieces to building an extremely competitive roster that fits within their financial boundaries. Those who agree with me that Flyers could do nothing and still get Shea need to remember the importance of the “business” of hockey. There’s still the cap floor and ceiling to consider and trade route benefits both teams on that front.
I 100% see Shea Weber in the Orange and Black this coming Fall. The only questions are who will be with him and who will don the Nashville Gold?