Late Wednesday night the Philadelphia Flyers shocked the hockey world by having Shea Weber agree to an offer sheet worth 14 years and $110 million. The Nashville Predators have said on record that they would match any offer made for the Restricted Free Agent, yet it seems that the Flyers may have made such a lucrative offer that the Predators might not have the financial flexibility to be able to match this particular contract.
While the average annual value of the deal is relatively small and the cap hit over the term of the contract is just $7.857 million, the Flyers have included an incredible amount of signing bonuses in the contract that add up to $52 million in guaranteed money in the first four years of the contract and $68 million guaranteed in the first six years. That's guaranteed money no matter what happens with the new CBA and with a team like Nashville, who have been doing well the past few years but are still encumbered financially, that sort of commitment may just be out of their league.
Except it's now come out that the Flyers made the offer to Weber because multiple deadlines had passed on a proposed trade for the star defenseman, and other teams might have been in on those talks as well. It's been long rumored that the Vancouver Canucks were prepared to extend an offer sheet to Weber and it stands to reason they were also discussing a trade with Nashville. The offer sheet seems to have been the next step in the Flyers desperately seeking Shea Weber.
It seems that the Predators were preparing to move on without Weber this season after all, likely due to to the defenseman's discouragement over how such a promising team was coming apart at the seams after Ryan Suter bolted for the chilly air of Minnesota. It's a shame to see this happen to the Predators, a team on the cusp of being something potentially great. The Predators have said they have the resources available to "match any offer" but it seems that the Flyers potentially put together a contract too rich for Nashville to match.
Immediately after news broke that the Flyers had made such an offer, Dallas Stars fans flooded Twitter asking "why not us, why couldn't we have made that offer?"
The Dallas Stars were smart to stay away. Find out why after the jump.
The initial reaction to this deal is that the Stars not only could have matched such a financial commitment, but that the supposed compensation of two 1sts, a 2nd, and 3rd would be more than worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime top defenseman who is still just 27 years old and coming into his prime as a hockey players. For the Flyers, who have been one of the top teams in the East the past few years, that level of compensation is certainly more than worth it as they'd likely be picked in the late 20's with Weber on the team.
It's important to realize just how different the Flyers and Stars are right now and where they rest in their respective stages of development.
The Dallas Stars, still in a bit of rebuilding mode, cherish those draft picks more than most teams. While a 2013 first round draft pick likely won't be ready for the NHL until 2016 or 2017, we have seen over the past four years exactly what happens to a franchise when a team doesn't treat the draft with respect and free agency doesn't become the lucrative option it once did. Seeing what the NHL is attempting to do to free agency, it's becoming more and more apparent that teams are going to have to rely on building from within to be more successful.
The Flyers, however, have been in win-now mode for a few years now and a player like Weber puts them over the top. They are also in a different place than the Stars on defense, with several aging players on the way out after this season (Timmonen, Pronger) and not anywhere near the amount of young talent the Stars are building on the blue. Of course, no one in the system has the potential to be anywhere near what Shea Weber is, so there's that.
It's just two first round picks, though. Obviously, that is a fair price for the services of Weber and even for the Stars it could have been worth it. Except that's likely not going to be the compensation for this deal.
Compensation for offer sheets is calculated by the cap hit of the deal. Since the cap hit of this contract reportedly sits around $7.857 million, then it falls into the window for the aforementioned compensation. However, the compensation for long-term deals is not based on the cap hit of the entire contract but on one-fifth of the total value of the contract. This means that this contract, for the compensation calculations, the Flyers would be looking at losing their next four first-round draft picks.
Four. First. Round. Draft. Picks.
Unless the Dallas Stars begin to pick up first round draft picks as assets over the next few years, that means four years without a pick in the first round. While the Stars have certainly found some value in the second round, we've seen just how handcuffed this franchise became when a lack of first round picks (and successful picks, at that) severely damaged this team when free agency and lucrative trades no longer became an option.
So would that be worth it? Would the short term success of this team be worth the long-term risk of such an option?On top of possibly paying Weber $26 million in one calendar year, this deal would have meant guaranteeing $68 million to one player over six years -- taking Weber to the age of 33 -- right around the time the effects of those lost draft picks would start being felt. Especially if free agency changes as drastically as the NHL is wanting.
As currently constructed, there's also absolutely nothing that says that Weber would bring the Stars the short-term success that might possibly make this deal worthwhile. While this upcoming season looks like it could be fun, the truth is that the Stars are building a team around youth and are still waiting for those young players to develop and mature. It could be a few years before the Stars are truly able to contend.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, this deal makes more than enough sense. That's a team that can not only afford such a financial commitment, but their chances of finding short term success is much higher than the Stars', and I guarantee that Flyers fans would be more than happy with this albatross of a contract.
There's nothing that the says the Stars didn't attempt to go for Weber in trade or even extended an offer sheet to Weber. Remember, in these cases it's also up to the player to decide which offer sheet -- if any -- he wants to sign and agree to. Given how the Stars have been loathe to indulge in these massive contracts, it's understandable that as soon as it became clear the terms that were being thrown around the Stars would have backed off.
After all, we have yet to see how such long-term deals work out for the players and teams that sign them. While a player like Marian Hossa seems to be living up to his deal and Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't exactly made the Devils regret that contract -- yet - there's still the cases of Rick DiPietro, Roberto Luongo, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and others who have signed long term deals yet things fell apart with their teams not long into their contract. Rick Nash, fresh off of signing a massive 8-year contract, is looking to be traded just two years into his deal.
I'm not sold that making such a commitment to a player, no matter what the talent, is ever worth it. Right now it seems that this is what it takes to sign the best players in the NHL, however, and that is something the NHL must address with this new CBA. The problem with the NHL's argument, of course, is that team's keep signing players to these massive contracts -- therefore negating the argument that team's can't afford them.
For the Stars, staying away from this blockbuster deal was probably tough but in the end worth it. The Stars are not "one player away" and making such a financial and long-term commitment to one player would hamper their long-term chances of being a successful franchise on the ice. The Stars have tasted what it's like to be a mediocre team the past few years and while Weber is what this team -- and many others -- desperately need, it shouldn't come at the expense of the future.