Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Preds match Flyers' offer sheet for Weber

Special to the Phanatic

Shea Weber will remain a member of the Predators, in theory, for the next 14 years after Nashville matched the $110 million offer sheet the defenseman signed with the Philadelphia Flyers last week.

The announcement came roughly 32 hours before the Wednesday night deadline for the club to match or walk away, bringing to an abrupt end a situation which has had both hockey markets and the NHL at large on the edge of their seats during the dog days of the offseason.

The Predators had a key decision to make after already losing unrestricted free agent defenseman Ryan Suter to Minnesota in a 13-year deal consummated on July 4.

Nashville apparently analyzed the overall situation and came up with three main questions it needed to answer in order to make the move, according to the piece on the club's site following the announcement:

- Was 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 Predators answered "yes" to every question and rewarded Weber on Tuesday with the largest contract in franchise history. At 14 years, the contract is the third-longest in the history of the league.

Weber, Nashville's captain since 2010, has posted 99 goals and 164 assists over his first seven NHL seasons. The 26-year-old had 19 goals and 30 helpers in 78 contests this past season.

He was a second-round draft pick of the Predators in 2003.

"In tendering an offer sheet to Shea Weber, we were trying to add a top defenseman entering the prime of his career," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement. "With Nashville matching our offer, we wish Shea and the Predators all the best."
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