Nashville Predators GM David Poile said early in the off-season that he would match any offer sheet made to his captain and anchor defenseman Shea Weber. He now has to make that decision, as the Philadelphia Flyers signed the Norris Trophy runner-up to a monster 14-year, $100 million offer sheet late last night.
The Flyers have looked at improving their club after the second-round loss to the New Jersey Devils this past spring, and the rumor mill has had them seeking an elite wingers. The names of Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash and Anaheim Ducks gunner Bobby Ryan have been the chief players, but nothing has happened with the young players Holmgren would have to surrender in return.
But with the likes of 93-point man Claude Giroux, 37-goal scorer Scott Hartnell, and a cast of improving young forwards, the team's offense in very good hands.
The defensive side of the game is the spot that could use the huge upgrade. After missing out on Nashville's UFA Ryan Suter -- who signed with the Minnesota Wild on July 4th -- Weber would obviously provide the best option available.
He's the big, right-handed shooting defender the Flyers have missed for so long, but would bring so much more than just that. Holmgren did add Luke Schenn in the James van Riemsdyk deal late last month, but Weber would add so many more components to the Philly blue line.
Unlike Schenn, Weber possesses a tremendous offensive arsenal, having one of the biggest shots in the game from the point. The 26-year-old scored 19 goals and posted 49 points last season -- including 10 on the power play -- and has notched double-digit goals since becoming a regular in the Preds' lineup (The only exception was an injury-plagued 2007-08 campaign, when he scored six goals in 54 games).
Weber is the complete package. He is mobile, physical, and also kills penalties. Including his defensive partner Suter, Weber may just be the biggest defensive catch of the summer.
But was the offer sheet the right method of choice for Holmgren? If Poile matches as he said he would last month, the Flyers may have done Poile a huge favor. Weber's camp has maintained a wait-and-see attitude when asked if they would re-sign in Nashville, which may not bode well for the Preds. They believed they were still in the running to re-up Suter and watched him shuffle off to the State of Hockey. If Poile matches, the Predators will have locked up Weber for the rest of his career.
With the unsure status of Weber's future, it's likely Poile would eventually auction Weber off to the highest bidder, and that would surely cost Holmgren a building block player like Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn. If this gamble pays off, he would have added a linch pin defender to his blue line to replace Chris Pronger -- who appears more and more as if his career is sadly over with the more time that passes -- and in doing so, will likely have to yield up to four consecutive first-round draft selections. And if they end up with Weber, a likely late first-rounder in four drafts is a paltry package compared to the mix of roster players, prospects , and picks that it would take to land Weber in a trade.
The whole issue of Poile matching may just come in the money the Flyers offered up front, which could be in the $25 million range, which would be in the same neighborhood as what the Wild gave Suter. Coincidentally, that is the kind of offer the owners are seeking to abolish with their CBA offer, where a contract will not be averaged out each season for cap hit purposes.
The good news for Poile is he has the most cap space available with which to match, so it would seem that if he has the green light from ownership to match Philadelphia's offer sheet, he can do so without a problem.
Give Holmgren credit. He didn't want to run the risk of missing out completely on Weber, so he took an aggressive approach. With his only other addition to the blue line other than Schenn being UFA signee Bruno Gervais, it wouldn't be the type of revamp the position has needed since Pronger went out of the lineup last fall -- specially when you consider that Kimmo Timonen, one of the best returning rear guards, will be another year older and need to play less minutes.
By adding Weber to a defensive corps that also includes Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Nicklas Grossmann, and Andreas Lilja -- in addition to youngsters Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, and Brandon Manning -- Holmgren would have made the best-possible upgrade to his club.
Nashville has seven days to match Holmgren's offer sheet. It's now Poile's move in what will determine the outcome of the single biggest acquisition the Flyers could have possibly hoped to make in order to transform themselves into a true Stanley Cup contender for next season.
It will be a long week in South Philadelphia, indeed.