On Tuesday afternoon, the Nashville Predators announced that they would match the offer sheet given to Shea Weber by the Philadelphia Flyers. While any team would obviously benefit from having Weber, Flyers fans should not dwell too much about the offer sheet being matched.
The team will still be one of the best in the league without Weber. Their core of young forwards now has almost no chance of getting broken up. Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and Jake Voracek make a dynamic, talented group who will only get better.
The New York Rangers made a splash by trading for Rick Nash in a move that some say make New York the Stanley Cup favorites. But while the Rangers improved by addition, the Flyers will improve by maturation.
Giroux scored 93 points this past season and is only 24 years old now. Schenn, who was rated as the top NHL prospect when the Flyers acquired him last offseason, is 20. Couturier is 19. Simmonds is 23. Voracek is 22. Read is 26, but was a rookie last year and should also improve with a year of experience under his belt.
All of these forwards will take on even bigger roles this season, and there is no reason to think that they won't excel. But back to Weber not joining the Flyers, which clearly has the biggest impact on the team's defense.
Halfway through last season, the Flyers' defense had a lot of question marks. But GM Paul Holmgren, as he has become known to do, went out and got the pieces that were missing.
Niklas Grossmann was acquired at the deadline and signed to a multi-year deal. The Swede is a big, defensive defenseman who brings a much needed net-clearing presence.
This offseason, Holmgren added more size and youth by trading for Brayden Schenn's brother Luke. Last year, the 22-year-old led all NHL defensemen in hits with 270.
Put Grosmann and Schenn together with Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros, and newly-signed free-agent Bruno Gervais, and the Flyers defense looks solid heading into the season.
Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon are 23 and 22 years old, respectively, and will get experience when the injury bug hits. Both players have potential to be solid NHL defensemen.
As good as Weber is, the Flyers still have a solid defensive corps without him. And no matter what, $110 million over 14 years is a risk. Without that contract, Holmgren can re-sign Voracek and not worry about giving away any of the other young forwards.
With all the cap space saved, to go along with the four draft picks saved, the Flyers could still put together a package at the trade deadline if the roster needs to be improved. And with Kimmo Timonen's $6 million cap hit coming off the books next offseason, the Flyers will have space to sign anyone who is available.
The Flyers would have loved to get Weber, sure, but the team is still in great shape without him. They are young, talented, and Holmgren now has an excess of cap space and draft picks to work with.
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