The hockey following world still awake this late at night suddenly exploded.
Nashville Predators star defenseman Shea Weber, twice consecutive Norris trophy runner up, has accepted an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers.
The deal is reported to be for above 100 million dollars and for 14 years in duration, resulting in a cap hit of at least 7.14 million dollars for 14 years. The deal would last until 2026. Unless the deal’s total worth exceeds 109.7 million dollars in total and a cap hit of ~7.8 million, the Predators would receive two first round picks, a second round pick and a third round pick as compensation. If it does exceed 7.8, four first round picks is the compensation. Nashville has 7 days to either accept this deal and keep Weber or let him go and get the draft picks in return.
For those unfamilar with the ins and outs of player movement in the NHL, RFA offersheets which sign a younger player still controlled by his club are very rare in the modern NHL. Since the 2004-5 lockout, only 6 have been signed prior to this one. Only one was not matched by the player’s club Dustin Penner to Edmonton in 2007, which has been widely derided as a mistake by Oilers management. This shows the usual futility for an NHL GM to attempt to sign a player this way and why its almost never attempted.
The strangest part of this whole situation is that its very hard to see why the Flyers would do this. Nashville was prepared to offer a similar contract to retain Ryan Suter who was an unrestricted free agent but who instead choose to join Zach Parise in Minnesota. Nashville has very low salary commitments at this point (~41 million in total payroll, last in the league) and theoretically should have no difficulty matching the offer. In fact, speculation is that they were prepared to give exactly this kind of contract to Weber so he’d remain and Nashville would not lose their biggest star. At this moment it appears that Philadelphia merely did Nashville’s job for them.
The most concievable scenario is that Philadelphia is offering a massive signing bonus to Weber that they know Nashville either cannot or would have difficulty matching for the up coming season. This jives with a tweet from from TSN “Insider” Darren Dreger which states that Weber could be making upwards of 26 million in a single calander year. Far above the ~14 million maximum in salary and cap hit an NHL player can receive during a single year in a 70.2 million cap NHL, but use of timed signing bonuses can effectively raise the salary owed to the player in a particular year. (i.e. first signing bonus of 12 million, 2 million real salary then another signing bonus to of 12 million the year after). The second signing bonus is effectively in the same calendar year but part of a different NHL fiscal season.
On interesting take on the matter was suggested to me by Bruce Peter of Puck Worlds on twitter. This could be interference by Philadelphia to make sure that only themselves or Nashville can get Weber and freeze out teams like New York, San Jose and Detroit who supposedly were interested in trading for Weber. Perhaps this was a desperate move to prevent another team from winning the bidding war for Weber’s services via trade. Nashville can not accept the deal an then flip Weber to another team because teams are forbidden from trading a player for one year after an offer sheet signing.
If Weber does end up with Philadelphia this will have major implications for the league’s balance of power. Philadelphia revitalizes a blueline that had gotten thin with Chris Pronger’s injuries and Matt Carle’s departure to Tampa Bay. Meanwhile the Predators, their prized defensive group eviscerated, looks poised to suddenly collapse.
All of this under the backdrop of an NHL than is trying to rollback the cap next season and limit free agency and contract lengths.
Expect more to unfold over the coming weeks.
Addendum: Having been informed of the relevant CBA clauses I retract that the compensation could be two firsts, a second and a third. Offer sheet compensation is determined by one fifth the total value of the contract if the contract is above 5 years meaning it will certainly be in the range of four first round picks.