The Philadelphia Flyers are reportedly set to cross one of the unwritten boundaries of NHL free agency, signing a premiere RFA defenseman to a massive, blockbuster offer sheet and forcing his current team to match it within seven days.
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, the Flyers have signed a 14-year offer sheet with All-Star Nashville Predators blueliner Shea Weber, worth upwards of $100 million. Dreger claims that the Predators had been working with "a number of teams" and passed multiple deadlines to trade the stud defender, and the Flyers "grew tired of waiting." It has since been confirmed by Dreger that Weber did indeed sign the offer sheet.
Weber, just 26, has already made a name for himself as one of the best defensemen in hockey. He's been to three NHL All-Star Games, been an end-of-year first-team All-Star the past two seasons, represented Canada and won a Gold Medal at the 2010 Olympics and been nominated for the Norris Trophy two straight seasons. He's known as not only a shutdown, top pair d-man, but has offensive skill as well, putting up four consecutive seasons of 40 or more points.
The Predators now have a week to match that offer after watching Weber's teammate, Ryan Suter, sign a 13-year, $98 million deal earlier this summer. The deal Weber's reported to be getting might actually see him sign for a smaller cap hit than Suter. That said, if the Preds were looking to deal Weber already, they might simply let him go and accept the compensation. As per Dreger, that could entail -- depending on the annual average salary -- between four first round picks from the Flyers, or two firsts, a second and a third.
For the Flyers, it would fill the gaping hole left in their defense when Chris Pronger was sidelined long-term with post-concussion symptoms. It also would solidify a defense core that was only saved by the Pittsburgh Penguins defense (and goaltending) being even worse in the first round of the 2012 Playoffs, and could not match up to the New Jersey Devils in the second round, causing the Flyers an earlier-than-expected exit.
Regardless, the countdown is now on to see if the Predators match what would be the largest contract given in franchise history, for a player who has been one of the faces of said franchise since the end of the last NHL lockout.