The Nashville Predators have matched the offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers for the services of Shea Weber, signing him to a 14 year, $110 million contract. This announcement comes after several days of deliberation by the Predators as the offer from Philly was front loaded with bonuses designed to make it difficult for the Predators to match the offer.
In the end, the Predators stepped up to not only sign one of the best defensemen in the NHL but also to send a distinct message to the Nashville fan base that management is serious about contending for the Cup.
The offer from Philadelphia loads up front signing bonuses to Weber, with $80 million being paid in the first 6 years of the contract. Backed by money from Comcast, the Flyers had the ability to structure a heavily front loaded contract that at first look seemed to make it extremely difficult if not impossible for the Predators to match. There was a sense that the Predators could pay this kind of money to Weber, but the front loading of the contract offer by the Flyers added a financial hurdle that the Predators had to overcome.
For the Predators, this contract represents an inflection point. If the Predators had not matched, the psychological stigma to the fan base and around the League perhaps would have been insurmountable. The Predators would have been perceived as a small market team that could not attract and retain talent. Now the message has been sent that the team is serious not only about continuing to be competitive on the ice, but paying for the talent that can make this team an elite competitor.
To be sure, this is a difficult contract for the Predators to swallow. This was by design. Philly was relying on the financial horsepower of owner Ed Snider's Comcast money to force the Predators to give up Weber. Instead, the ownership group of the Predators showed not only their willingness but their ability to play with the big boys.
And for this young franchise, this is a major step to credibility.
Sure, the Predators have won on the ice. They have been a solid team. But what sets any team apart is the ability to be a destination franchise, willing to pay for the talent necessary to be successful. Until that happens, a team can just hope to be elite.
Now, the Predators have made the step toward becoming a destination franchise. An elite franchise.
And that is a statement that will echo around the League.