Four years ago today, the Philadelphia Flyers signed defenseman Shea Weber to an unprecedented 14-year, $110 million offer sheet. At the time Weber was viewed as one of the best blueliners in the game, and owner Ed Snider, alongside general manager Paul Holmgren, pushed to sign him. As we all know, the offer sheet was matched by the Nashville Predators, unknowingly saving the Flyers from themselves.
Weber would have improved the Flyers in the short-term, but would have crippled the Flyers after the first few years of the deal. Let’s take a look at what the Flyers have now that they could have lost if the offer sheet went unmatched.
Four First-Round Draft Picks
- 2013 1st-Round Pick – Samuel Morin
- Morin is coming along slowly but surely, just as many bigger defensemen do. He acknowledged that he had a bit of a tough transition to the professional ranks last season, but he is still one of the Flyers’ best defensive prospects. The 6’7″ defenseman is expected to continue improving as a reliable defenseman for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season and it shouldn’t be too long before we see him in orange and black.
- 2014 1st-Round Pick – Travis Sanheim
- Sanheim will be making his transition to the pros this season with Lehigh Valley after putting up another stellar season in the WHL. He continued proving for the Calgary Hitmen, recording 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) in just 52 games. In his four-game stint with the Phantoms at the end of last season he scored a goal and added two assists. Sanheim has gotten bigger and stronger this offseason, and projects as a top-four if not top-pair defenseman. If one of the Flyers defensemen get injured, don’t be shocked to see Sanheim promoted like Shayne Gostisbehere was last season.
- 2015 1st-Round Pick – Ivan Provorov
- As good as Sanheim was in the WHL, Provorov was better; the Russian defenseman was named WHL Defenseman of the Year with another fantastic season. He scored 21 goals and added 52 assists for 73 points in 62 games as he led his team to the WHL Championship. By all accounts, he is ready to make the jump to the NHL, but patience may prevail and Provorov could tear up the WHL yet again. It’s a lot to pin on a 19-year old who has yet to play a professional game, but once Provorov hits his prime he could end up being just as good as Shea Weber.
- 2016 1st-Round Pick – German Rubtsov & Pascal Laberge
- Ron Hextall’s decision to trade down at the draft netted his club with two talented forwards. Rubtsov instantly becomes one of the Flyers top forward prospects, and Laberge is likely in the top five or so as well.
- Rubtsov will play the next two seasons in the KHL to develop his game. Last season he played in the MHL, recording 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 28 games. He also put up six points in four games as an 18-year old on Russia’s U19 team.
- Laberge will continue playing for the Victoriaville Tigers in the QMJHL. Last season he scored 23 goals and added 45 assists for 68 points in 56 games. Both players have solid two-way games and were projected as first-round talents.
- 2012-2026: $7,857,143 cap hit.
- The Flyers would have been on the hook for a cap hit of nearly $8 million for the next 10 years. Weber, 30, is likely to retire to before that, and the cap recapture would be drastic in the mid 2020’s. The Flyers also wouldn’t have been able to sign the majority of their current core given such a cap hit. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and soon Brayden Schenn would have all been impacted by a tight cap.
- As bad as Andrew MacDonald’s contract is, Weber’s may be worse.
The Butterfly Effect
The short-term improvement that Shea Weber would have had on the Flyers roster would’ve been heavily outweighed by the negatives towards the end of his deal.
- 2012-2013: Lockout shortened, missed playoffs by 6 points
- A season full of injuries and underperforming left the Flyers on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
- 2012-2013 with Weber: Short Playoff Run
- Does Shea Weber push the Flyers into the playoffs? Perhaps. Remember that this is the season that the Flyers regularly played defensemen like Bruno Gervais, Kurtis Foster, Andreas Lilja and Kent Huskins.
- Do they go very far? Probably not. Maybe they can win a round or two, but in the end, I can’t see them among the top teams in the Eastern Conference and they definitely can’t take down the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals.
- 2013-2014: 1st round exit to New York Rangers in 7 games
- The Flyers bounced back from a bad start with a great second half to make the playoffs. However, they were ultimately foiled by the eventual Eastern Conference Champions.
- 2013-14 with Weber: Eastern Conference Champions
- With Weber on the blueline the Flyers would probably take down the Rangers, before dispatching the Penguins in the second round. However, a long playoff run would wear down the Flyers’ stars, goalie, and ultimately their whole team. The Western Conference was built better that playoffs, and I can’t see them taking down the Los Angeles Kings if they got there. Obviously, a Stanley Cup would be worth every penny of Weber’s cap hit, but the slim chance of that isn’t worth mortgaging the future.
- 2014-2015: Missed playoffs by 14 points
- The first of a few transition years for the Flyers. After sneaking their way into the playoffs the year prior, the Flyers set themselves up for the future in 2014-15.
- 2014-2015 with Weber: Short Playoff Run
- Without factoring in any butterfly effects that the Weber signing and subsequent seasons may have had, the Flyers wouldn’t have been able to make a deep run in 2015.
- 2015-2016: 1st round exit to Washington Capitals in 6 games
- The Flyers were ultimately doomed by their lack of goal scoring and depth.
- 2015-2016 with Weber: Short Playoff Run
- It’s hard to project one player’s impact on a team a few seasons after they may have signed him, but Weber wouldn’t have been a season-changer for last year’s team. Weber’s presence on the blueline also could’ve resulted in us never seeing Shayne Gostisbehere, and we don’t want to imagine a world without Ghostbear.
The Flyers are in a fantastic position to compete not only this year, but for the next several years. Gone are the days of overspending in free agency and overpaying for rentals at the trade deadline. Instead, they have a solid core group of players with the final pieces waiting in the wings. As time moves on, and prospects develop, we’ll finally see the product that Hextall envisioned when he took over as general manager two years ago.
That vision may have never took hold if Weber landed in Philadelphia. The offer sheet would be another move on Paul Holmgren’s resumé, extending his time at the helm of the organization.
Nashville matching the Flyers’ offer sheet for Shea Weber could be viewed as a precursor to the turning point of the franchise. Weber was one of the last huge splashes that the Flyers tried to make in free agency, instead they are waiting patiently and building a team as they should: through the draft.
Ron Hextall has set the Philadelphia Flyers up beautifully with a great chance at creating a hockey powerhouse in the coming years. The current core of Giroux, Voracek, Couturier, Schenn, Simmonds and Gostisbehere will soon be joined by prospects that the Flyers wouldn’t have had a chance at acquiring if they got Shea Weber. Nashville matching the offer sheet four offseasons ago was a blessing in disguise that ultimately saved the Flyers from themselves.
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