To Catch A Predator: Shea Weber

The Philadelphia Flyers have the hockey star in their sights but can Nashville match the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet?

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

Last November the Nashville Predators signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a seven-year, $49 million contract, which was the largest in team history, but now GM David Poile will have to dig much deeper into his pockets if he wants to keep defenseman Shea Weber.

Weber signed a ridiculous offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday morning and because he's a restricted free agent, the Predators have one week to match the 14-year, $110 million contract.

The Predators issued a statement just hours later confirming they had received Philadelphia’s offer sheet.  After losing stud defenseman Ryan Suter to free agency less than a month ago, the Predators could be worried that they're close to being completely decimated at the blue line, unless they act.  But it won’t be easy on their wallet since he’s owed $26 million – including bonuses – in the first calendar year, but if Nashville does lose him, the Flyers will have to give the Predators four first round draft picks.

“We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea,” Poile said. “Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it, and all of its ramifications, in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term.”

Many would argue that the 26-year-old Weber is among the top three – if not the best – players at his position in the league.  The Predators’ captain played on a $7.5 million arbitrator’s award last season and had 19 goals and 30 assists, before Nashville was knocked out in the conference semifinals for the second straight season.

Weber would help Flyers fans forget about the loss of defenseman Chris Pronger – whose career likely appears finished thanks to concussion issues – the biggest reason Philadelphia made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010.  With Pronger likely spending the season on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) and the $5.9 million increase to the salary cap, the Flyers have money to blow.

Last season Weber averaged just over 29 minutes of ice time, so he can certainly carry the load for a Flyers team that gave up 44 goals in 11 postseason games.  The three-time All Star plays the game with a lot of tenacity, throwing the body around any chance he gets.  He brings with him plenty of leadership and a cannon of a shot, much like the guy he would be replacing.

This move would not only bring about nicknames such as “Predators North” for a team that would have three former Predators, but also solidify the blue line through next season, at which point they’ll have to decide the future of Kimmo Timonen.  Either way the Flyers continue to shove their weight around in free agency as they attempt build a championship-caliber hockey team.

The clock is ticking, Nashville.

Ed is the lead hockey writer and a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller, and subscribe on Facebook @ CraveOnlineSports.

Photo Credit: AP