Nashville matches offer sheet for Shea Weber


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The Nashville Predators have retained franchise defenseman Shea Weber, agreeing Tuesday to match the offer sheet Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers last week.

On July 18, Weber, a restricted free agent, agreed to a 14-year, $110 million contract with the Flyers.

Predators general manager David Poile previously had said the franchise would match any offer Weber received, and on Tuesday he lived up to his word. The Predators had until Wednesday night to make their decision, but didn't need to take the full seven days.

In a team-issued press release, Nashville called matching the Weber offer sheet "the most important hockey transaction in franchise history."

In that release, the Predators spelled out the reasons for matching:

-- Was Shea Weber the individual that this franchise wanted to lead our team, a team that would compete for the Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years?

-- Would matching the offer sheet be in the best long-term interest of the team and organization?

-- Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with "deep pockets?"

When the organization realized the answer to each of these questions was an "emphatic yes," the decision to match was made.

At 14 years, the contract is the third-longest in League history, trailing only the 15-year deals signed by Ilya Kovalchuk with the New Jersey Devils in 2010 and Rick DiPietro with the New York Islanders in 2006. At $110 million, the total value would trail only Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who signed a $124 million, 13-year deal in 2008.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Predators can't trade Weber for one calendar year; however, that seems of little consequence based on how important Weber is to the Predators.

The move also solidifies Nashville's defense in the wake of losing Ryan Suter, Weber's All-Star defense partner, who signed a 13-year deal with the Minnesota Wild on July 4.

"I think that Shea and us knew that [the match] could possibly happen, and I think Nashville's still a very good organization, and a great team -- they had good success this year," one of Weber's agents from Titan Sports, Kevin Epp, said on TSN Radio. "And I think this is a big step by their ownership in the sense that ... they are showing that they are a team that is willing to contend and compete for a Stanley Cup."

Weber, Nashville's captain since 2010, had 19 goals, 49 points and a plus-21 rating last season and was runner-up for the Norris Trophy. He also had two goals and an assist in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Predators won a playoff series for the second time in franchise history

In seven seasons, all with the Predators, Weber has 99 goals and 164 assists in 480 games. He has four straight seasons with at least 16 goals and 40 points.

Weber also now will have the chance to join veteran Hal Gill as a mentor to the Predators' younger blueliners. Roman Josi, 22, averaged nearly 19 minutes per game in the playoffs last season, and Jonathon Blum, 23, played nearly 18 minutes per game in 33 regular-season games. Ryan Ellis, the team's 2009 first-round pick, had 11 points in 32 games as he got his first taste of the NHL. A highly skilled offensive-minded defenseman, he could join Weber on the Predators' power play in 2012-13.

"[Shea's] always been happy in Nashville ... it's the only NHL team he's ever known, only organization he's played for," Epp said. "I think he's definitely happy about living in Nashville and playing for the Predators."

Nashville's decision marks the sixth time in seven instances since the 2005-06 season that a team has matched an offer sheet received by a restricted free agent. The only player to switch teams was Dustin Penner, who went from the Anaheim Ducks to the Edmonton Oilers in 2007.

"In tendering an offer sheet to Shea Weber, we were trying to add a top defenseman entering the prime of his career," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said. "With Nashville matching our offer, we wish Shea and the Predators all the best."

The Flyers were hoping to land Weber to replenish their defense. The future of team captain Chris Pronger is unknown after he sustained a serious concussion that ended his season in December. In addition, Kimmo Timonen was an All-Star last season, but he is 37 and entering the final season of his contract. The Flyers also lost Matt Carle, who signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
:LOL: That's probably why he signed. He didn't want his #1 collector to have to change his avatar.