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Weber's agent: Market changed after Suter contract

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TSN.ca Staff
7/19/2012 11:44:17 PM
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The Philadelphia Flyers' 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to restricted free agent defenceman Shea Weber early Thursday morning caught the hockey world by surprise.

However, for Weber and his representatives, the possibility of life away from Nashville opened up on July 4.

"The marketplace changed on July 4 there," Weber's agent Jarrett Bousquet told TSN Radio 1050's Cybulski and Company on Thursday. "The other contract [of] Shea's old defence partner (Ryan Suter) re-set the market."

With Suter inking a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent, Bousquet felt that the price of a two-time Norris Trophy finalist like Weber had just gone up.

"When that happened we saw 13-year deals coming and 14-year deals coming, which Shea was able to sign under the 'Kovalchuk rule,'" Bousquet said. "We all sat down and looked at the different options and thought, you know, if there is a 14-year contract coming down the pipe at some point, we need to be ready for it and we need to know that you want to play there for the next 14 years."

The choice for Weber to look elsewhere is a direct result of what Bousquet believes is a philosophical change in direction from the Predators in the wake of Suter's decision to sign with the Wild.

"When things changed in Nashville and we felt that everything was set back a year or two and it looked to be more of a rebuilding situation," he said. "We thought we'd just take our time. In that time frame – in three or four days – other teams exercised their rights under the CBA to contact us and make some offers."

As a restricted free agent, Suter has been eligible to sign an offer sheet since the calendar turned to July and to some, it was just a matter of time before he signed one.

"Is anyone surprised that an offer sheet came in for Shea Weber?" TSN Scout Craig Button asked later on Cybulski and Company.

"Shea Weber - arguably – is the best defenceman in the National Hockey League. I'm not talking about the Norris Trophy or who was the best this year. What Shea Weber brings to a team is unique."

Seeing an opening on their blue line with the potential loss of captain Chris Pronger, the Flyers put up big money - $56 million over the first four years of the contract – to try to lure Weber to Philly.

While the money grabbed headlines, the opportunity to play for a perennial competitor was attractive to Weber and his team.

"He'd like to play with the Philadelphia Flyers because we all feel that he's just another piece in the puzzle to take them to the next level," Bousquet said. "He doesn't want to go through a rebuilding process again."

He added that his client wouldn't have signed the offer if he weren't ready to close the book on his career in Nashville.

"I don't think you sign an offer sheet unless you're pointing in that one direction," Bousquet said.

But Button was quick to point out the flip side of the strategy, one that could lock Weber into being a Predator for a long time to come.

"If you're exercising your rights under the CBA then you know Nashville can exercise their rights under the CBA and match," Button said. "When you sign this offer sheet, there's no way that you don't want to be in Nashville, because the percentages are very high – like almost 100 per cent – that [Nashville] is going to match the offer sheet."

The strategy was set in attempts to scare Nashville off from immediate cash commitments, but the importance of a player like Weber cannot be lost on an organization such as the Predators.

"It's not just Weber," Button said. "Weber is so unique that he makes everyone around him better. So it's not just that you lose Shea Weber. You're losing the capabilities of everyone else on your team."

"I don't think you can overcome Ryan Suter and Shea Weber losses in any type of short term."

Predators general manager David Poile has been in this situation before.

As GM of the Washington Capitals, he was faced with the opportunity to match an offer sheet submitted to then-Capitals defender Scott Stevens by the St. Louis Blues.

While Poile's Capitals would receive two compensatory draft picks, the loss of a future Hall-of-Famer was a sting to the organization.

"It didn't turn out very well for him," Button said. "Now I'm not going to tell you it turned out terribly, but it didn't turn out very well."

While the Caps would draft long-serving NHL defenders with both picks, selecting Brendan Witt and Sergei Gonchar, the leadership gap was wide.

"You just don't replace impact players like Scott Stevens or Shea Weber."

Button stressed that the four compensatory picks Nashville would receive for opting not to match could yield quality players, those bodies would not realistically be of help to the Predators until 2017 and onwards.

Weber's camp, however, knows that a change is coming to the economics of the NHL in the form of a new collective bargaining agreement.

"With the uncertainty of the new CBA, we felt as though when the offer sheet came we felt that it was just too good of a deal to pass on," Bousquet said.

Button agrees that the money Weber has been offered involves a big up-front commitment from the Predators. However, the salary cap obligations the deal would carry are only marginally higher than what Weber cost the Predators in 2011-12.

Under the offer sheet, Weber's annual cap hit becomes just north of $7.85 million per season, versus a $7.5 million cap hit this past season.

While the 14-year duration of the offer sheet is a heavy commitment, Button does not believe the Predators will back down.

"They had that money for Ryan Suter on July 1," Button said. "So the bottom line is - to me – [Poile] can take his time, maybe make someone sweat it out, but he has got to match it."

Shea Weber (Photo: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
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