Nashville Predators: Preventing Shea Weber from Bolting Was the Right Move
The Nashville Predators have decided to match the intense 14-year, $100 million-plus offer sheet that had been submitted by a Philadelphia Flyers team desperate to solidify a suddenly depleted blue line.
Naturally the subject is no longer how loaded the Flyers would have been with Weber.
Instead, the idea has been flipped onto the side. Now the question seems to be: "How bad did Nashville screw up in matching this offer?"
Odd how that happens.
It made sense for the Flyers to offer the sheet but it's an awful move by the Predators to match. I don't honestly believe there's much of a discussion to be had.
The Predators absolutely and undoubtedly made the correct move by securing their captain and best player for nearly the next decade-and-a-half.
I flat out don't like these insane deals that match player and team for over six or seven years. Yet in this case, I don't have a choice but to buy in.
Here's five reasons why you should too.
Keeping Weber in Nashville on a Massive Deal Proves That Ownership Is Commited
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There are few guarantees in hockey. Or anything.
One thing you can count on, however, is this: Whenever an NHL franchise in the south is faced with any kind of adversity, the doomsayers will poor out from whatever holes they hide in to predict the failure of hockey in any state that isn't cold.
Sometimes they are right—I suppose one could chalk Atlanta up to successful foretelling.
Otherwise, northern detractors have been constantly incorrect in their aggressively negative assessments.
Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carolina and Tampa Bay have all won Stanley Cups since the last time a Canadian team did. That was in 1993, but who's counting?
In retaining Shea Weber, the Nashville Predators have made a very clear statement: We're here to stay, and we're committed to remaining competitive.
They aren't putting their tails between their legs and entering another rebuild mode.
General manager David Poile and his backers made this very clear when they committed so much money over such a long period of time to just one player.
If they hadn't matched, the media fallout would have been disastrous.
Losing two of your three best players in one month worth of time? The Predators would have become the poster boys for one-hit wonder teams in the south.
Instead they managed to retain two of their three best free agent skaters—something most teams would consider a success—and are in shape to do some damage in the Western conference again.
Consistent Norris Trophy Canadates Don't Grow on Trees
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To win in the NHL a team must protect homegrown, top-end talent. At the end of the season, these are they players that are most directly responsible for winning or losing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If you look at the squads that have had consistent success since the lockout, this is the thread that binds them.
Having a few outstanding draft classes is great and all, but not being able to keep these players and losing them for nothing (or in this case draft picks) can set you back years. Make no mistake either, if Nashville had allowed Weber to walk it would have set the team back for a good while.
Instead of being a dark horse Stanley Cup (or at least Western Conference finalist) pick they would again be a dark horse to make the dance in the first place.
Shea Weber will be a Norris Trophy contender for at least half of the duration of this contract.
This contract guarantees that he will be a Norris Trophy contender in yellow and white.
Typically there are only three or four players like this in the league at any position. Trading away a high quality athlete like this rarely will make sense for a franchise, especially one that may be considered fringe.
Now Other Free Agents-to-Be Know That Nashville Is Serious
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After so many seasons in the NHL, a franchise needs to make a splash.
Or at least prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that its existence isn't futile and that a Stanley Cup is really in the plans of the team.
For proof of this one need look no further than the deals the Minnesota Wild handed out to the two top free agents available. Matching the offer to Weber isn't the addition of a new player, sure. However keeping a player of his caliber is a big enough deal.
One of the most dominant, outstanding, impressive defenders in hockey is going to presumably finish out his career in Nashville.
If you don't think that this fact matters when it comes to trying to lure new free agents to town then you don't understand business. Or psychology.
Keeping Weber in town alongside Pekka Rinne in net provides a rock solid foundation. They have some interesting names up front and should continue to score by committee though he strength of this team will always be the defensive zone.
The departure of Ryan Suter may actually help the Predators in the long run.
Weber Will Be Relied on to Mentor a New Wave of Defensive Talent
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Jonathon Blum and Ryan Ellis.
Get used to seeing those two names paired with each other because they represent the future of Nashville's defensive zone. One that is guaranteed to be anchored by Weber now that he has been locked up forever.
Both Blum and Ellis are highly touted youngsters that will finally make the Predators this year (full time) after the departure of Ryan Suter.
Either one of them could make a large impact on the squad this year, but my money is on Ellis.
He was supposed to evolve into a top four role last season but things just didn't work out that way for him. This year could see both of these guys break out and make the All-Star rookie squad.
They're that good.
The prospect of having two players like this in the system is only enhanced by the fact that they'll be both backed and taught by one of the best in the game.
They are also why losing Suter may not be all that bad.
What was lost in the shuffle and hoopla of free agency was the fact that the new Wild player wasn't a particularly outstanding player until he was paired with Weber.
I'm not saying that he can't hold his own. I'm just saying that if you paired an average blue liner with a player of Weber's caliber, his numbers are going to get padded a bit.
Deduce from this what you will.
Regardless, either Blum or Ellis could very well end up skating alongside Nashville's captain this season and they'll be all the better for it.
Sometimes the Afterthoughts Need to Beat out the Darlings
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Keeping Shea Weber in Nashville drastically changes the script that has been running through the NHL for years.
Trust me: I'm a Detroit Red Wings fan.
I know all too well that the same seven or eight teams generally land the biggest names and the highest quality talent because I've been pulling for one of those teams since I was a six years old.
The Predators retaining Weber is a rare example of an underdog managing to protect an asset against a usurper.
I understand that Paul Holmgren was acting within the bounds of the current collective bargaining agreement when he extended a heavily front-loaded contract to Weber.
Oddly enough this was after the Predators had come out to the media and said that they'd have a hard time handling and matching any kind of front-loaded contract.
No rules were broken.
But the statement from the Ivory Tower in Philadelphia was clear: We have money and all the time in the world. Do you?
Nashville took a few days to consider, shrugged, and said yes.
The Flyers made an attempt to construct a contract that they felt the Predators and their backers just couldn't match. It was a predatory maneuver, regardless of how you cut it.
This is precisely what the last round of CBA talks were all about—smaller teams not being able to hang with the big teams because of money, timid investors, fan support and lucrative local TV deals.
When the phone call went through and Nashville informed the NHL of its intent to match the offer from the Flyers and retain their captain, it was a rare slash in the win column of the small states versus the large states.
Good on them for putting the chips down when they knew it mattered.