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Will the Predators match Shea Weber's offer sheet?

It's a big week for David Poile, and his decision will shape the entire future of the Nashville Predators.
It's a big week for David Poile, and his decision will shape the entire future of the Nashville Predators.

You have to feel bad for Nashville Predators general manager David Poile, a guy who's seemingly done everything right. He's built his team from nothing all the way up to Stanley Cup-contender status with little money at his disposal, and yet it's proven time and time again that no matter how hard he tries, his best players are going to leave town.

You might say it started when Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell were traded prior to hitting unrestricted free agency in 2007, same with Peter Forsberg, a guy that played just 22 total games in Preds' gold after the team gave up Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a first and a third for the aging veteran. Since, we've seen goalie Tomas Vokoun leave Nashville via trade. We've seen Dan Hamhuis leave. We've seen Ryan Suter walk away for big money in Minnesota.

And now, Shea Weber could very well be gone after signing a 14-year, $100-plus million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. Have to wonder what Pekka Rinne -- the lone guy to stick around for the long haul down in the Music City to date -- is thinking this morning.

It's vital for Poile to match this offer sheet for a number of reasons, be it the opportunity for his team to remain competitive, the all-important public relations view or simply his own ego. As Sam Page over at On the Forecheck wrote early this morning, the next seven days -- the time frame Nashville has to match the offer or pass -- will be crucial in Predators history. Perhaps the most important days they've ever faced.

I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that this is the defining moment of this young franchise. David Poile and Barry Trotz have been talking about how the Predators are being primed to be a cap-ceiling team. Time to put your money where your mouth is, everyone. Match. Do it.

But will Nashville match? Can they match? Let's try to answer those vital questions.

At face value, it all points to a Nashville match here. As we've already outlined, there's too much on the line for them to let this go, and they've said repeatedly in the past that they would match any offer.

The Flyers would give up four first round draft picks as compensation to Nashville should the Preds let Weber go, but that's small potatoes in the long run. The Flyers will almost certainly be a playoff team for the next four seasons. Four first round picks are nice, but there's no guarantee any of them will become an impact player on Weber's level. And even if one or more of those picks do become elite NHL players, how long will that take? We're talking potentially eight, nine years here. Nashville can't afford that.

But again, that's at face value. Nashville isn't a rich hockey club. They're not bathing in the money like Paul Holmgren, Peter Luukko, Ed Snider and Comca$$$$$t-Spectacor are.

TSN reported early this morning that the Flyers offer could include one year in which the total salary and bonuses reach $26 million. TWENTY-SIX MILLION DOLLARS.

If that's true, the Predators might not be able to match that number. That's for a number of reasons:

-- Forbes valued the team at $163 million in 2011. $26 million in one season on one player, no matter how great and important that player may be? Yeah, that seems sort of impossible.

-- A lot of people are throwing out the possibility that Weber could still be traded, but the current CBA -- the one that's in effect until Sept. 15 and thus will dictate the rules of this contract -- says that if Nashville matches, they cannot trade him for one calendar year.

-- Poile and the Preds can't even trade him right this second. The signing of this offer sheet means that he's playing one of two places in 2012-13: Philadelphia or Nashville. (Or perhaps overseas in the event of a lockout. Whatever.) The only way that changes is if the Flyers wind up with his services and then decide to trade him. That seems ... um, unlikely.

Really, this all just comes down to a) the structure of the deal and b) the Preds putting their money where their mouths are. They've said repeatedly that they'd match any potential offer sheet. They've said repeatedly that they can compete with the big boys. They've said repeatedly that they want Shea Weber to spend the rest of his career in Nashville.

Well, here's the chance for them to take control. They almost certainly want to match the deal. But will their finances allow it? That's the $100-plus million question, and we'll find out the answer at some point between now and next week at this time. The Flyers don't have much to necessarily lose here, but for the Preds, this might as well be a matter of life and death.