The Nashville Predators dished out its largest contract in franchise history Tuesday by matching the Philadelphia Flyers offer sheet for Shea Weber.
Weber, the Preds' captain and top defenseman, will be in Tennessee for the next 14 years and earn $110 million.
These are two of the most pressing questions for the Predators' front office throughout this nearly week-long debate.
1) 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?
The Predators believe the answer to those questions is yes, but I'm not entirely convinced on that one.
Nashville's two best players are Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne (under contract until 2019). They have nearly $17 million in salary cap space, according to CapGeek.com.
Without Ryan Suter to play the point with Weber, the Nashville defense may struggle a bit. That's OK, the offense will take over—the highest-scoring player on the roster is Martin Erat (58 points).
Defensive answers could come in the form of Brett Clark or Carlo Colaiacovo. Both are still on the free-agent market.
The Preds did a good job of keeping their best asset in town, but there are holes to fill if they are going to "compete for a Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years."
2) 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?"
Predators answer: "Yes."
The Preds did a fantastic job in not allowing a bigger market team to "push them around" and for that I applaud their courage.
My issue with that is, why didn't the Predators offer something that Weber would have agreed to on their terms?
While I don't know the intricate workings of the negotiations that were done, if you were truly trying to protect your best assets, would you even let them consider going to a new team?
The Preds dodged a bullet in matching the offer sheet. I'm not sure the fan base would have allowed the team not to.
Nashville has sent the message that they will not be bullied by larger market teams but the fact is, they don't really have the money to offer another Weber-like contract.
As mentioned above the Predators don't have a 60-point scorer from last season on their roster.
Their defense was eighth in the league, but that included Suter. You have to assume the Predators defense won't be as solid this season so the offense will need to shoulder a larger load.
The Predators offense was also eighth in the league (2.83 goals per game). And, they boasted the best power play unit in the league (21.6 percent) but they still have questions to answer offensively.
The Predators have 13 forwards under contract for the upcoming season but you would have to think bringing in a 60-point scorer would help. That's if the Predators can afford one.
While the Predators have answered yes to some trying questions there are still many more to be addressed.
Who pairs with Weber?
What do they do on the power play?
What if they miss the playoffs?
Can Pekka Rinne carry the team until the defense settles in?
If the Predators do happen to miss the playoffs, they could have put themselves in a no-win situation and what could be a tragic fallout to one of the league's best almost-young franchises.
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