Preds GM Poile in a tough spot

Nashville Predators GM David Poile must decide by Wednesday whether to match Philadelphia's...

Nashville Predators GM David Poile must decide by Wednesday whether to match Philadelphia's 14-year, $110-million US offer sheet signed by the club's captain, Shea Weber. (AFP)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:35 AM ET

About 28 other National Hockey League general managers must be glad they are not named David Poile right about now.

Poile, the GM of the Nashville Predators, has until next Wednesday night to decide whether to match the offer sheet that his star defenceman and captain, Shea Weber has signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Poile is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

If Poile figures that he has no choice but to match the 14-year, $110-million US sheet Weber signed with the Flyers, he is making a financial commitment that the Preds wouldn’t have made otherwise. No less than $68 million of the contract reportedly is set to be paid in bonuses during the first six years of the contract.

It’s clear that in signing an offer sheet of such magnitude, Weber has made a firm decision that it is time for him to put Nashville in his rearview mirror.

If Poile matches the offer, Weber would have to go back into a dressing room and explain to his almost-former teammates why he didn’t want to be part of the future in Nashville.

If Poile decides to let Weber become a Flyer, he will get four first-round draft choices in return. On paper, that is not much, and when those picks become actual warm bodies, they might not be much either. There is no guarantee any of the players would become the stud that Weber has developed into, and if Flyers GM Paul Holmgren ever gets around to shoring up his goaltending, none of those picks would come high in the first round.

Poile already has one hand tied, in that he lost his other top-notch defenceman, Ryan Suter, to the Minnesota Wild, via free agency. If you’re a fan of the Predators and watched as the top two defencemen on your favourite team departed during the summer, how much would your incentive to renew those season tickets lessen? Quite a bit, no? That’s after you’ve managed to piece back together what remains of your soul as a hockey fan.

The Predators released a statement saying about all they could at this point.

“We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea,” part of the statement 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.”

And how does NHL commissioner Gary Bettman feel about this? He is looking at the NHL Players’ Association during collective bargaining agreement negotiations with a straight face and telling Donald Fehr that a five-year limit on contracts in the next CBA is the responsible way to go. Undoubtedly, Bettman would just slough the Weber offer sheet off to reporters as teams working the way they are allowed to do so under the current CBA.

The craziness of the Weber offer is nothing new. The Wild recently threw $98-million US contracts at two players, Zach Parise and Suter, who are talented but have no idea what it feels like to hoist the Stanley Cup over their heads.

It’s ridiculous that contracts as big as these can be signed and the NHL turns around and asks for five-year limits in its initial proposal. And it remains ridiculous if the players negotiate that to seven or eight years.

Jarrett Bousquet, the agent for Weber, told radio station TSN 1050 that Weber would prefer the Predators not match the offer sheet.

“I don’t think you sign an offer sheet unless you are pointing in that one direction,” Bousquet said. “It’s really up to them. He would like to play with the Flyers because we all feel he is just another piece in the puzzle to take them to the next level and he does not want to go through a rebuilding process again.”

A few weeks ago, Poile sounded depressed during a conference call when he discussed Suter’s decision to leave Nashville. He might be able to speak above anything other than a hoarse whisper if he decides to let Weber go.


Videos

Photos