When Philadelphia surprised everyone by giving Predator defenseman a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet, we were awed by Paul Holmgren's balls and savvy, and sad for Nashville fans, most of whom are actually quite devoted (there's just not enough to of them to, you know, make the team profitable.) We assumed Nashville wouldn't, couldn't match—more for the fact that they were actively looking to trade him than frontloaded $68 million over six years it would have cost them. It would have been the "two" in a one-two punch led by Ryan Suter chasing the money to Minnesota.
Well, what the fuck do we know? There is some joy in Smashville, because the Preds announced they will match Philadelphia's offer sheet. This means, barring a trade (more on that in a sec), Weber will be with the Predators through 2026, or long after they would have moved to Ontario. From Nashville's statement:
As the organization analyzed the overall situation and worked toward a conclusion, the decision boiled down to three questions:
- Was Shea Weber the individual that this franchise wanted to lead our team, a team that would compete for the Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years?
- 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?"
The answer to each of the above questions is clearly "yes."
This wasn't a cap issue—it was always a pure "do we have the cash" question. (Even with Weber being the NHL's highest paid player next year, they'll still need to make some signings to reach the salary floor.) This doesn't exactly answer that question, but it's a major statement to Nashville fans that David Poile are committed to avoiding a full rebuild. You can buy relevancy.
We may be here again next year around this time. As per the CBA, Nashville can trade Weber in one calendar year—after he's been paid $27 million, including two gigantimous signing bonuses. The Preds' statement indicates they're in this for the long haul, and the general Twitter feeling is that there's no way Nashville would shell out that much cash, only to move him. But that's not how a front office thinks (or ought to think, anyway.) If, in a year, they feel they can't afford Weber, or would be better served by younger, cheaper players, there would be no sense in throwing good money after bad. $27 million is a sunk cost—the remaining $83 million is eminently movable. (Especially if the new CBA contains term limits. In a league where contracts could be limited to five years, Shea Weber locked down for the rest of his natural playing life still sounds mighty attractive. Even, who knows, to the Flyers.)
So what do the Flyers do in the meantime? They'll probably throw a bunch of money at P.K. Subban, but that won't end well. Either Montreal matches, or they don't because Philadelphia comically overpays him. Yup, sounds like summer in Philly.