The Flyers have been here before trying to lure a highly-regarded restricted free agent like Nashville stud defenseman Shea Weber. They can only hope it turns out better.
Turn back the calendar to 1997 when then-GM Bob Clarke got restricted free agent Chris Gratton to sign a five-year, $16.5 million offer sheet. With the same compensation rules in place — four first-round draft picks — for Gratton, Clarke waited to see if longtime nemesis Phil Esposito would match.
Ultimately, Gratton did wear Orange and Black, but at a steeper price. The Flyers had to buy back their draft picks in exchange for Mikael Renberg and Karl Dykhuis. That effectively broke up the famed “Legion of Doom,” featuring Eric Lindros and John LeClair.
And when Gratton proved to be a colossal flop, scoring just 23 goals in 108 games, the Flyers shipped him and winger Mike Sillinger back to Tampa a year later for Renberg and Daymond Langkow.
Will they pull off a similar deal to make sure they get Weber, who signed a reported 14-year, $110 million offer sheet? With a week to decide, the Predators’ intend to match.
“We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea,” Nashville GM David Poile said in a statement. “Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team.”
For now, the Flyers will hold their breath and wait, unless GM Paul Holmgren decides not to call Nashville’s bluff and hammer out a deal that might cost him one or more of his young guns, like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read.
Weber’s deal is front-loaded, like an NFL contract, which makes it hard to imagine Nashville retaining him. The Predators have until 11:59 p.m. on July 25 to match. Here’s the breakdown for first six years (per Rogers Sportsnet in Canada):
2012-13: $1M + $13M bonus
2013-14: $1M + $13M
2014-15: $1M + $13M
2015-16: $1M + $13M
2016-17: $4M + $8M
2017-18: $4M + $8M