Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Predators match to retain Weber

A day following the Rangers big trade for Rick Nash, there was more news regarding Shea Weber. With a day left to decide, the Predators opted to match the gigantic frontloaded 14-year $110 million offer sheet Weber signed with the Flyers. Considering all the discussion about the clubs possibly working out a trade so Philadelphia could complete the transaction, it definitely came as a surprise. For Nashville to match and retain its best player and captain, they showed that they're serious about competing.

On behalf of Predators chairman Tom Cigarran, GM David Poile and CEO Jeff Cogen, the team released a statement that called the Weber signing, "the most important hockey transaction in franchise history," per TSN Tuesday.
"It was absolutely essential that they understand and believe that we are doing everything possible to ice a Stanley Cup competing team each and every season," the Predators said in a release.
Such a bold move not only demonstrates that the Predators want to stick around but continue to challenge for Cups in the future. The departure of Weber's partner Ryan Suter to Minnesota was a blow. Had they let the face of the franchise go, it would've been a nightmare for the franchise's future. Many assumed hockey wouldn't work in Music City. However, Poile's built a consistent playoff team who made the second round the last two years. By re-signing elite goalie Pekka Rinne and keeping Weber, the Preds should still be good. Finding a replacement for Suter won't be easy. However, Poile also announced the re-signing of forward Colin Wilson to a three-year $6 million deal. It was a great day for Nashville.

"I think what Nashville showed today is they're willing to step up with some of the more solid ownership groups," praised Weber's agent Jarrett Bousquet . "They said, 'You know what? We are a destination for free agents. We're a place that guys are going to want to come and we're solid ownership. We're going to keep our stars.' When that happened, Shea was pretty excited they were willing to step up like that and give him that commitment."
The 26-year old Weber is one of the league's premier defensemen who's entering his prime. A seven-year career has already featured three All-Star appearances, an Olympic gold medal, him being named team captain and his first selection to the NHL's First All-Star Team. In 78 contests this past season, he totaled 19 goals and 49 points with a plus-21 rating. Ten of those 19 goals were scored on the power play while two more were shorthanded, giving him 12 special teams goals. In 480 career games, Weber's tallied 99 goals with 164 assists for 263 points. His postseason record consists of 10 goals and 10 helpers over 43 games.

Somewhat astonishingly, Nashville stole him in the second round of the '03 Draft selecting Weber 49th overall. By comparison, the Islanders took Robert Nilsson and the Rangers picked Hugh Jessiman in the first round. Oops. He ranks as one of the top blueliners in the game. With Nick Lidstrom retired, stick Weber in there with Zdeno Chara as the game's best. Erik Karlsson won the Norris due to his offensive explosion and more media attention playing in Ottawa. It's amazing that Weber's never won it. Much like Henrik Lundqvist who finally won the Vezina, his day is coming.

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren was complementary to Weber and Nashville after losing out. "In tendering an offer sheet to Shea Weber, we were trying to add a top defenceman entering the prime of his career," Holmgren said. "With Nashville matching our offer, we wish Shea and the Predators all the best."

Weber will earn $27 million in the next year due to a signing bonus that includes $68 million to be paid during the first six years of the contract. If anyone's wondering if Nashville could still trade him, they aren't allowed to for at least a year. I wouldn't expect to see Weber in a Flyer uniform anytime soon. Though they have been criticized for tendering such a ridiculous offer, give Holmgren credit. The Flyers have guts. They'll do anything within league boundaries to improve their roster. Chasing after a perennial All-Star who could've made a huge impact on the East was a smart calculated move. There was little risk. If the Preds didn't ante up, the Flyers would've been that much better. Probably Cup favorites. Instead, it's back to the drawing board for Holmgren, who replaced Matt Carle with Luke Schenn. There'll be no reunion between Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen and Weber in Philly.

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