LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Chances are Sidney Crosby and Shea Weber won't be heated rivals next year, but they just might be. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
So, the news is all out there. Darren Dreger of TSN broke the story that the Philadelphia Flyers signed Restricted Free Agent defenseman and should have been 2011-12 Norris Trophy winner Shea Weber to a 14 year contract for over $100m. We've been waiting for the Weber chips to fall, and apparently Philly got impatient and decided to try and get this thing settled right here, right now.
Offer sheets sound simple, a player is negotiating with his current team and then another team comes in with an enticing offer that he either uses in his negotiations with his current team or signs to force his current team to accept these terms or see him leave for magic beans (in the form of draft picks). However, this one had an added twist... the Predators were trying to see if they could get Weber to sign to a long term deal, and if he couldn't, he was going to be traded. According to Dreger, that trade process was at least being explored with a couple of teams, including the Flyers' division rivals the New York Rangers:
I'm trying to go back to bed. More info coming in. Philly, NYR, Detroit and San Jose were big players in Weber trade scenarios.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 19, 2012
There's little doubt in my mind what was happening. The Flyers looked at their competition and knew they couldn't offer up the kind of package that longtime trade partner David Poile would accept for Weber. Someone else was getting him, and that someone could definitely have been the Rangers. The Rangers are good enough without Weber, and already facing the Penguins as a main division rival is tough enough. So Paul Holmgren made a move to ensure that he could both sell his fans on how he tried everything to improve the team (which is true in this case), but also ensure that Weber would only sign with him or with his good friend back in Nashville (they've made deals on high quality players like Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, and Peter Forsberg in the past).
Should the Predators choose to match the deal, and there is little reason to assume they won't, Weber is likely a Predator for life. Under the current CBA, players signed to offer sheets can't be traded until the next off-season. By doing this, Holmgren sabotaged the chances for a couple of other Stanley Cup contenders to add the best defensemen in the NHL, including one in his own division. This might reek of desperation, but it's actually a very smart play by Holmgren.