TSN's Darren Dreger reported early Thursday morning that the Philadelphia Flyers signed Nashville Predators’ defenseman Shea Weber to a 14 year, $100 million-plus offer sheet. This is a move that forces Nashville to choose between signing their captain for the same steep price or letting him go to Philadelphia in exchange for compensatory draft picks.
For the Flyers, the move is huge—turning a solid blue line into a truly elite defensive corps—should Weber wind up wearing the Orange and Black.
The move is particularly appropriate due to the possibility that Chris Pronger may never play again. There is no official word on Pronger’s status for next season, but most Flyers fans are not optimistic.
When Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren discussed Pronger’s status with Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi, the executive put his captain on a pedestal:
Assuming Chris can't play, those are big shoes to fill. It's hard to find a Chris Pronger. I don't know if he's out there.
Well, if he is out there, his name is Shea Weber. And Paul Holmgren just took a big step toward signing him.
Here are five reasons Shea Weber is the only true replacement for Chris Pronger.
A defenseman can have all the skill, speed and smarts in the world, but there is no faking pure size. Both Weber and Pronger have no shortage of muscle.
Pronger towers over the competition at 6’6”, while Weber is a comparatively-moderate 6’4”. However, Weber has the edge where it counts.
The Preds’ captain has 12 pounds on Pronger, weighing in at a whopping 232 lbs. according to the Predators' website.
That kind of size effortlessly moves opposing forwards out of the crease, muscles shifty wingers to the outside and puts anybody with his head down flat on the ice.
Much like a younger Pronger, Weber creates a radius in his own zone where opposing players have no easy access to the net. Half of the Flyers’ defensive zone might as well be ironclad if Weber makes his way to Philadelphia.
Chris Pronger was made captain before the start of 2011-12 because of his locker room attitude. Pronger is notoriously cheeky, yet engaging with the media while demanding the utmost from his teammates.
For a team whose prior leadership was more focused on partying than practicing, Pronger’s discipline proved invaluable and could be missed if Pronger does not play this season.
Shea Weber already displays a Pronger-like approach to commitment and discipline. Yahoo!Sports published a piece on Weber where Preds’ coach Barry Trotz told division rival and Canadian head coach Mike Babcock that Weber didn’t play his best game because “he’s playing injured.”
Why give that information to a division rival? Because Trotz wanted to make sure Babcock did not pass up Weber for a spot on Team Canada’s Olympic roster.
And that injury? A broken foot.
Now that’s leadership.
Both Pronger and Weber are exceptional in the defensive zone, but their games take on a new dimension because of their offensive abilities.
Weber has totaled 53, 43, 48 and 49 points in his last four seasons and has scored fewer than 16 goals only once since his first full season in 2006-07.
Pronger, on the other hand, has never scored more than 14 goals in a season and has comparable point totals, having contributed 55 points in his only full season in Philadelphia. At age 26 (Weber’s age), Pronger scored 47 points in just 51 games for St. Louis.
Getting offense from defenseman is a concern for the Flyers, who aside from possibly playing without Pronger, have lost Matt Carle and are also witnessing Kimmo Timonen’s decline at age 37.
Weber is an undoubtedly qualified candidate who would put up points on the power play and at even strength without sacrificing defensive responsibility.
Fans in Nashville and Philadelphia know Shea Weber and Chris Pronger for their production, leadership and commitment to winning.
Fans outside those cities simply refer to these guys as “dirty.”
Pronger is infamous for his aggressive and cheap antics, namely throwing elbows and using his skate as a weapon. When not committing suspendable infractions, though, Pronger’s toughness is a tool of intimidation and defense.
Weber now finds his own name inseparable from the incident depicted in the video, where he inconsequentially smashes Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass in the waning moments of the first game of the Red Wings-Predators playoff series this year.
Weber was fined $2,500.
Of course, in the eyes of Philly fans, he stopped being dirty the moment he signed Holmgren’s offer sheet.
Before trading for Chris Pronger, the Flyers severely lacked a powerful shot from the blue line. Pronger changed the dynamic of the Flyers’ offense, giving them weapons in all parts of the offensive zone and making the power play more effective.
Pronger’s shot commands league-wide respect, as he nearly hit 100 mph at the 2008 NHL Skills Competition.
That shot was sorely missed last season, but the offer sheet signed by Weber represents a replacement, or better yet, an upgrade.
The video shows this year’s Skills Competition, where Weber’s 106 mph shot was bested only by the monster Zdeno Chara for the hardest slapshot in the league.
On most areas of the ice, Pronger and Weber are perfectly crafted defensive tools. But when winding up on the blue line, they are simply weapons.