Though signing restricted free agents to offer sheets is an option in the National Hockey League, general managers refuse to exercise this power today, worrying that it will cause friction. However, this was not always the case. There once was a time, not too long ago, when teams would indeed extend offer sheets to another franchise’s restricted free agents. Although teams rarely matched a qualifying offer, it still provided exciting storylines during the NHL offseason. Today, we take a look back at the most massive qualifying offer ever dished out, and it involves the Flyers and Shea Weber.
Shea Weber Signs Offer Sheet With Philadelphia Flyers
Still a relatively young franchise in the summer of 2011, there was nobody more precious to the Predators franchise than Weber. The team named him captain only one year prior and intended on him being the face of the franchise for years to come. Weber became a restricted free agent the first time in July of 2011. He expressed that he wanted to remain with the organization that drafted him. Nashville worried that another team would swoop in with an offer sheet, so they filed for salary arbitration. The two sides failed to agree on a contract by the set hearing date, making it the first time in NHL history a team-elected arbitration candidate reached a hearing. Weber was eventually awarded a one-year, $7.5 million contract. The Predators could back out of the deal because they opted for arbitration, not Weber.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012. The time for Weber and Nashville to negotiate a contract arrived once again, this with arbitration not being an option. The act of extending an offer sheet wasn’t considered a league-wide no-no at this point, and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren felt like making some waves. Philadelphia and Weber agreed to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet, daring Nashville to match. The offer sheet was the richest in league history in regards to total money, annual salary, and contract length. The previous holder of that title belonged to Thomas Vanek. Vanek signed a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet with Edmonton in 2007. Buffalo did not want to lose him, so they matched the offer.
Nashville found themselves in a bit of a bind. The team already lost Ryan Suter to free agency. Losing Weber as well could set the franchise back a bit. Still, the enormity of the contract was nothing to take lightly. 14 years and $110 million is a substantial amount to commit to one individual. So much so, a deal like that can no longer be made, thanks to the current CBA. Five days after Weber accepted the deal with Philadelphia, Nashville matched the offer. One can only imagine that intense hatred for Holmgren and the Flyers also developed.
Typically, this is where I bestow a grade upon the transaction. In this case, that plan of action seems less appropriate. If the Predators refused to match Philadelphia’s offer we might be having the old “what was Holmgren thinking” discussion. However, that did not turn out to be the case. Nashville did indeed match the offer and assumed the burden of that ridiculous contract. Of course, we all know that Montreal has now taken on the role of paying Weber. Now, at the age of 32, Weber still has eight more years left on his current deal. If the term wasn’t enough to make you cringe, an annual cap hit of $7,857,143 comes along with it.
As I mentioned before, monsterous deals such as Webers can’t happen anymore, and for a good reason. Unfortunately, this contract is still out there, putting the storied Canadiens franchise in a tough spot financially.