Nashville Predators' Shea Weber in Chicago, March 25, 2012. The Predators won 6-1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Nam Y. Huh
PHILADELPHIA - Shea Weber is on the brink of becoming the dominant blueline force the Philadelphia Flyers desperately need.
Weber signed a staggering offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers and the restricted free agent could be a week away from bolting the Nashville Predators. A person with knowledge of the decision says the Flyers signed Weber to a 14-year offer sheet worth $110 million.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the Flyers hadn't announced terms of the offer.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren confirmed early Thursday that the Flyers did sign Weber to an offer sheet. He gave no further details. The Predators issued a statement late Thursday morning confirming they had received the Flyers' offer sheet, which gives the team seven days to make a decision on matching the deal or letting the defenceman go.
"We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea," Predators general manager David Poile said. "Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team. Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it, and all of its ramifications, in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term."
Weber, 26, is the Predators' captain and played on a $7.5 million arbitrator's award last season. He had 19 goals and 49 points along the way.
Nashville already lost free-agent defenceman Ryan Suter to Minnesota this summer, and losing Weber would be an unexpected blow to a defence-first team that had 104 points last season, took the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
"We didn't go actively looking for an offer sheet," said Jarrett Bousquet, Weber's agent. "But when we spoke with Philadelphia, it seemed to be a right fit there."
Meanwhile, Weber would fill the void left by Philadelphia defenceman Chris Pronger's absence. Pronger—a key cog in the Flyers' run to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals as a No. 7 seed—has been battling concussion problems and missed most of last season. He finished with one goal in 13 games as the Flyers bowed out in the second round to New Jersey after a promising, 103-point regular season. The Flyers were exposed on defence in that five-game, Round 2 loss to the rival Devils, and since have lost defenceman Matt Carle, who snared a six-year, $33 million deal with Tampa Bay.
Weber would fix a lot of problems for a Flyers team that allowed 44 goals in just 11 post-season games. He is a three-time All Star who helped Canada win gold in the 2010 Olympics, and is also is the mainstay of the Predators' defensive-minded approach. He is coming off a season in which he turned in a career-best plus-21 rating. Weber was sixth among NHL defencemen in scoring, as well, last year.
He also had a career-high 22 points on the power play, and led all NHL defencemen with 10 power-play goals.
"I think at the point, he's really in a good situation," Bousquet said. "I think he wants to explore his options. I don't think he would sign an offer sheet unless you were hoping you were able to go to that team."
Weber averaged 29 minutes, 9 seconds of ice time last season, second on the team to his former partner, Suter, who signed a 13-year, $98 million deal with Minnesota on July 4.
"Things changed in Nashville July 4," Bousquet said. "The next four or five days we had to look at different options."
The Predators said they had the money to keep Weber and Suter after signing goalie Pekka Rinne to a seven-year, $49 million deal last November. But Poile couldn't keep Suter in town despite team officials thinking they had a good chance to keep their top draft pick in 2003. The Wild not only snagged Suter, but also agreed with forward Zach Parise, Suter's good friend who left New Jersey for a similar deal to Suter's, a month after leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals.
Nashville took Weber, the team's fourth pick in the second round in that same 2003 draft, to arbitration a year ago and couldn't take the restricted free agent there again this summer.
The Flyers would love to make a splash after losing out on Suter and Parise. They lost Carle and forward Jaromir Jagr, who left for Dallas, and traded one of their former cornerstones in forward James van Riemsdyk to Toronto.
Clearly, Philadelphia is in a position of need. The Flyers need help on the backline, they have watched teams around them in the East get better, and are still smarting from consecutive exits in the second round. Not to mention, last summer, Holmgren pulled off the stunning deals to get rid of high-priced forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and the two ended up helping Los Angeles to the Stanley Cup last month.
So, with a move like this, the Flyers seem to be drawing a line in the sand, especially after watching so many stars head elsewhere this off-season.
Perhaps Weber stops all of that. After all, he would likely be the Eastern Conference's biggest off-season addition, and one that can fuel Philadelphia's chase for a first Stanley Cup since 1975.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nasvhille, Tenn., contributed to this report.
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