Shea Weber Stays with Predators: How Nashville Screwed Flyers' Offseason Plans
The report ends more than five days of endless speculation about how the Flyers would improve with the addition of Shea Weber, speculation that had run so rampant and been so analyzed that it almost began to seem true.
Alas, for the Philadelphia Flyers, the dream of landing the best young defenseman in the league was only that: a dream.
With Weber remaining in Nashville, Philadelphia’s near-momentous offseason has become insignificant and lacking any major moves to improve the roster.
A lineup with Weber had the potential to be the most potent in the league. The team’s lineup without Weber is still competitive, but frighteningly similar to last year’s squad that found itself eliminated in five games to the New Jersey Devils.
Simply put, Nashville screwed Philadelphia’s glorious offseason plan.
Chris Pronger's Absence Remains a Factor
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With sources like Sean Gentille of the Sporting News reporting that the Flyers will likely play without Pronger in 2012-13, the team was lacking a star defenseman in every facet of the position: defense, offense, power play, penalty kill and leadership. Weber could have replaced all of that in one fell swoop.
Instead, the team will now be hurting without Pronger, as players like Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros and Kimmo Timonen try to step up in one way or another.
In the last two postseasons combined, Pronger has played only three games and scored only one point in that span. The team was eliminated in the second round each year.
The year prior, Pronger had 18 points in 23 games as the Flyers came within two wins of a championship.
It will take some brilliance on the part of Paul Holmgren, Peter Laviolette, or both for the Flyers to avoid a third consecutive disappointment in the postseason.
The Flyers Missed out While Waiting on Weber
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The most excruciating element of the offer sheet process is the fact that the final determination may not be known for a full week. The Flyers had to wait from just before midnight on Wednesday until Tuesday afternoon to find out whether or not they had a $110 million contract on the books.
That made it nearly impossible to commit to any alternative moves.
In the meantime, highly-regarded right winger Shane Doan came to town as per The Sporting News’s Sean Gentille. Any negotiating process with Doan would have to have been tentative or theoretical, as the Flyers did not know how much cap space they actually had to work with.
It is not inconceivable that the uncertainty of the Weber situation may have affected the team’s ability to land Doan.
Likewise, while the Flyers weren’t exactly the frontrunners in the Rick Nash sweepstakes (CBS Sports), any opportunity of the Flyers to offer Columbus a better deal than Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Artem Anisimov and a first went by the wayside when the Rangers and Blue Jackets completed their trade in the midst of Webergate.
And let’s face it, while it is better that the Flyers don’t have Nash. It would have been hard to offer Columbus a better deal than they got from the Rangers.
The Defense's Anchor Is 37
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Had Weber become a Flyer, he would have automatically become the anchor of a solid, deep defense.
Instead, that role is up in the air without an ideal candidate to take it.
Braydon Coburn is defensively responsible without the strong physicality that makes Weber and Chris Pronger so dangerous. Andrej Meszaros is offensively gifted but unreliable in his own zone.
The only player with the tools to be the all-around defensive leader the team needs is Kimmo Timonen, but he is 37 years old and finally beginning to show his age.
Shea Weber would have eased Timonen’s workload, but with Nashville maintaining possession of its biggest star, the Flyers’ defense lacks the big-time presence it needs to be an imposing force for opposing offenses.
The Team Cannot Trade Much
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As I discussed in an article published only hours before Nashville’s decision was released, having Weber on the team had the potential to make the Flyers a major player in the trade market.
The addition of Weber would have given the team significant defensive depth, which in turn could have made players like Andrej Meszaros, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson available for trade possibilities. Weber’s presence would in turn allow the Flyers to trade away some defensive pieces to round out an offense that lacks Jaromir Jagr and James van Riemsdyk.
With Weber remaining in Nashville, the Flyers cannot run the risk of dealing an offensive weapon like Meszaros, and they will likely need to hang onto Bourdon and Gustafsson as either one could develop into an excellent option as the sixth defenseman.
If the Flyers want to hang onto Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, as indicated by CSNPhilly's Tim Panaccio, there is very little they can give up to bring in a player of Bobby Ryan's caliber like The 700 Level has speculated.
Philadelphia Could Overcommit to a Lesser Player
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Nothing softens the blow of missing out on Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Shea Weber than making a desperate attempt to land a player of a lower caliber.
The Flyers are in fine shape with their current roster, most of which helped the team get to the second round of the playoffs last season despite being incredibly inexperienced. The team is by no means in trouble, but they have seen their division rival New York Rangers land a major star in Rick Nash, and the Pittsburgh Penguins can be expected to be as dangerous as ever.
The Flyers still have a few needs to address. The defense, while deep, is riddled with concerns. The team is lacking a true goal scorer to play with Claude Giroux. The right wing position leaves a lot to be desired, especially with Jakub Voracek still unsigned.
Is the team left in a position where, having been scorned by Suter, Parise and the Predators’ organization, it is prepared to hand out a big contract to a player who doesn’t deserve it?
Let’s hope not. It is not easy for the Flyers franchise or the fans themselves to be content with a quiet offseason.
But with the Weber dream dead, it may be time for Philly to look ahead to the season and worry about trades and free agency in 2013.