The Flyers had a very successful season in 2011-12.
Led by the top line of Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux, and Scott Hartnell, the Flyers claimed the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, and defeated the higher ranked Pittsburgh Penguins in one of the craziest playoff series perhaps ever. As Bill Matz has said, that series was barely hockey. Though the Flyers were bounced out of the second round by the New Jersey Devils (ugh), then-youngster Claude Giroux was blossoming into a premier player, and with the main core of Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Sean Couturier having been assembled and improving, it felt at the time as if the Flyers were on the up and up.
Therefore, in the summer of 2012, it would make sense that the Flyers would be aggressive in pursuing, well, what can only be described as “improvements” to the roster. It was clear that GM Paul Holmgren had a “win now” mentality, though this manifested itself in less than a desirable manner. With the purpose of bolstering the defense, James van Riemsdyk was traded to Toronto for Luke Schenn, which is undoubtedly one of the worst trades in franchise history. Additionally, since Ilya Bryzgalov was going to be the starter in net, Sergei Bobrovsky was traded to Columbus for draft picks which became Anthony Stolarz and Taylor Leier. Yikes. The only other additions to the roster, coming from free agency, were Ruslan Fedotenko and Bruno Gervais. Double Yikes.
In the end, the Flyers’ puzzling moves lost them Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr while they were pursuing other players, and it was their pursuit of these other players which in the end resulted in their poor offseason. There were a couple of big name unrestricted free agents who were set to hit the market, and the Flyers were after both of them. Evidently, the Flyers were so set in their pursuit of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter that they were willing to ignore their own pending free agents. In the end, both Parise and Suter signed expensive, long contracts with the Minnesota Wild, and it was looking as if the Flyers would go into the 2012-13 season empty handed.
However, there was one last trick up Paul Holmgren’s sleeve. With his options surely fading, he decided to make a bit of history. At the time, Shea Weber was 26 years old, and was an all-star for the previous two seasons. He was a restricted free agent, and in order to convince him to join the Flyers (and to make sure that Nashville couldn’t match the offer), Holmgren sent a 14 year offer sheet worth $110 million dollars. $68 million of that offer was signing bonus, and the cap hit per year on the deal was $7.8 million, which at the time was 13.10% of the cap ceiling! This offer was the largest in NHL history by total value, AAV per season, and length, and the Flyers were convinced they would land Weber.
However, the Predators did match the offer, claiming that matching the offer was “the most important hockey transaction in franchise history”. Their reasoning for matching the offer was detailed in a press release:
— Would matching the offer sheet be in the best long-term interest of the team and organization?
— Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with “deep pockets?”
Well, as of today, Nashville haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet, and it wasn’t in the franchise’s best interests. Evidently, Predators GM David Poile was so upset by the offer that Paul Holmgren essentially became blacklisted in general manager circles. In the end, Shea Weber would spend four more seasons in Nashville before being traded to Montreal for P.K. Subban.
However, what if none of this mattered, and Weber went to the Flyers? Things would get pretty crazy fairly quickly, with the first implication of the offer sheet not being matched is that the Flyers won’t have a first round pick until 2017. This means there’s no Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, or Ivan Provorov, or Nolan Patrick, and that’s just the immediate fallout. Weber’s massive contract would almost certainly restrict the Flyers moving forward in terms of moves they can make. In some instances, this can be a good thing. Having Weber on a $7+ million contract would likely mean that Andrew MacDonald could not have been signed to a six year, $30 million dollar contract, simply because it would be unlikely they could afford that contract.
Any other free agent signings the Flyers made would also come into question, especially due to the extensions that they would need to hand out to their young stars Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds. Therefore, it is unlikely the Flyers sign players like Mark Streit or Vincent Lecavalier. Well...maybe this offer sheet would’ve been a good thing after all.
The most important thing to consider, however, is the player himself. The contract Weber would have with the Flyers would expire in 2025-26. Now, up to 2014-15, Weber was still a great defenseman. His booming slap shot would be a weapon on the power play for years to come. However, after 2014-15, he wouldn’t be the same player as before. He had a great 2015-16 season, his last with Nashville, but afterwards the signs of his decline were obvious. The first years of Weber’s production would be top level, and the Flyers would have been helped tremendously by his presence. However, regardless, the size of his contract would limit the Flyers’ future moves for better or for worse, which becomes especially damning as the years go by and Weber’s production doesn’t merit the dollar value.
Given Weber is currently 34, and that is contract expires far in the future, his incentives for retiring are few, meaning that the Flyers would potentially have to pay Weber money for either massively depreciated production, or pay him just to go away with a buyout. Knowing how good the Flyers were for the life of this contract (which is not very good) the risks far outweigh the benefits, and it would be such a shame to have Weber’s massive contract interfering with this current team’s plans, though if the team would even look like it is today in a world with Weber is a different question.
I guess we have David Poile to thank on this one, for saving the Flyers from themselves.