So... who's ready for a drink?
It's been a whirlwind type of day, with interesting tidbits coming out from various media outlets, so let's parse through the main items and see where the Nashville Predators stand vis-a-vis Shea Weber.
Weber toured Flyers' facility
This one got folks worked up:
Shea Weber spent quite a bit of time with the Flyers' brass in Philly and toured facilities two weeks ago.— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) July 19, 2012
My take: While this is news, it's not surprising. If a team is going to sign a guy to a $110 million, 14-year contract, you'd expect some serious face-to-face time. The Tennessean is reporting that he also visited with the Sharks, Rangers and Red Wings, too. Since he's a free agent, he can speak with whomever he likes these days.
Weber's agent implies he doesn't want to play in Nashville
This got a lot of run today, with comments from Shea Weber's agent Jarrett Bousquet talking how great it would be for him to play in Philadelphia:
Heck, you know me - I've called Weber's commitment to the Predators into question for a long while now. Still, I wouldn't look at these comments as portents of doom.
The situation I keep coming back to is the Detroit Red Wings with Sergei Fedorov back in 1997/1998. Despite having just won a Stanley Cup, Fedorov held out on the Red Wings, well into the next season, and ultimately signed an offer sheet with Carolina that was much more "predatory" than this one here with Weber (it included a $14 million balloon payment if Fedorov played in the Conference Final that season, a poison pill designed for Detroit). Along the way, Fedorov let it be known that he didn't want to play for Detroit any more, either.
Once the Red Wings matched the offer sheet, however, everyone got back to business. The Wings defended their Cup in '98, and won another one in 2002. Even Bousquet in this interview admits that if the Preds match the deal, then Shea & the team will get back to the business of winning hockey games.
The bottom line is that Weber would not have signed this 14-year offer sheet if he weren't comfortable with the idea of playing it out here in Nashville, given the considerable likelihood of the Preds matching it.
Nashville & Philadelphia could work out a trade
While for the current time the Predators are locked into a "match the offer or not" decision, there is an alternative scenario which could play out immediately afterward. The Preds could reach an agreement with the Flyers not to match the offer sheet, but then work out a trade involving some of those four 1st-round draft picks that would come to Nashville as compensation. For Philly's Paul Holmgren, that might be a dream come true - the chance to land Weber, and send some salary out the door to clear cap space at the same time.
The Preds & Flyers do have a history of working out deals together, but once those Philly 1st-rounders are in hand, who's to say that Philadelphia is the best trade partner with which to deal those assets? That sounds like more of a face-saving scenario to me, rather than working out the best hockey situation moving forward. Do you really want to see Andrej Meszaros introduced at this summer's Skate of the Union?
Still, it's something that could be discussed while the Predators take their time coming to a decision. There's no harm in exploring the various options.
Does the Offer Sheet contain a No Trade Clause?
ESPN's Scott Burnside floated this notion...
Under the terms of the CBA, the Predators cannot trade Weber for a calendar year after matching the offer sheet, and a year from now, when Weber would have become an unrestricted free agent, a no-move, no-trade clause kicks in.
While the bit about the first calendar year is true, the no-move, no-trade part flies in the face of the rules regarding Offer Sheets & RFA's.
Quoth the CBA, Chapter 10 Verse 3 (emphasis mine):
(b) If the Prior Club gives the Restricted Free Agent and his Certified Agent, if any, notice, in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereto, that it is exercising its Right of First Refusal (a "First Refusal Exercise Notice"), such notice to be substantially in the form of Exhibit 7 attached hereto, to the Player's and his Certified Agent's, if any, address or facsimile number listed on the Offer Sheet, if any, within the seven (7) day period, such Restricted Free Agent and the Prior Club shall be deemed to have entered into a binding agreement, which they shall promptly formalize in an SPC, containing: (i) all the Principal Terms (subject to subsection (e) below); and (ii) such additional terms as may be agreed upon between the Restricted Free Agent and the Prior Club. The Prior Club may not Trade that Restricted Free Agent for a period of one year from the date it exercises its Right of First Refusal.
(e) For the purposes of this Article, the Principal Terms of an Offer Sheet are limited to the term, Paragraph 1 Salary and Signing Bonus and Reporting Bonus the New Club offers to the Restricted Free Agent (currently and/or as Deferred Compensation in specified installments on specified dates) in consideration for his services as a hockey Player under the SPC.
So, the Principal Terms in the Offer Sheet are about the years and the money. The Predators, if they wish to match, must register a contract matching those Principal Terms, along with anything else they wish to negotiate with Weber themselves (the Predators are the "Prior Club" noted in this case). The Flyers could include a NTC in their offer sheet, but the Preds apparently don't have to match that.