The Nashville Predators locked up their captain for a long time today as they have matched the 14 year, $110 million offer sheet put in by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Many were skeptical that the Predators could come up with the cash to match the offer sheet. Obviously Nashville is far from a big market team and they have to work within budgetary confines tighter than most teams. Ultimately though, the team had to make a move lest they completely alienate their fanbase and risk further financial problems as a consequence.

From the above press release:

The decision to enter into the largest contract in franchise history was made by all parts of the organization, including ownership, hockey operations and business operations.

As the organization analyzed the overall situation and worked toward a conclusion, the decision boiled down to three questions:

– Was Shea Weber the individual that this franchise wanted to lead our team, a team that would compete for the Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years?

– Would matching the offer sheet be in the best long-term interest of the team and organization?

– Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with “deep pockets?”

All in all it is a positive message to send out to the fans.

Shea Weber is one of the best, if not the best, defensemen in the NHL and will be the top paid player at his position going forward. Is that a selling point for the Predators going forward? Absolutely. Very few teams can legitimately make the claim that they have the best player at any position and Nashville will be one of them for the foreseeable future.

There is also an argument to be made that Weber is a top three player in all of hockey, but you may discuss that amongst yourselves. Just bear in mind how much more rare truly elite defensemen are as opposed to truly elite forwards, and the fact that Weber is easily as valuable to the Predators as any other player is to any particular team.

The big point here is the message the Predators send to the league, the players and their fans. They are serious about putting a competitive team on the ice, even if the cost is not in line with their traditional practices.

Whether or not they had enough in the coffers to pay Weber was up for debate, but why it was being debated seems to be a little puzzling. The Predators were adamant that they would sign their big three (Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne) to long term deals. Rinne signed earlier this winter before Suter went to Minnesota with Zach Parise. That being said, the Predators admitted to making a competitive offer in the neighborhood of $80 million.

If they were willing to make that type of commitment to Rinne and Suter, you better believe they were willing to do that with Weber and that the Predators were prepared to pay to do it.

The magnitude of this contract in the grand scheme of things is still very much up in the air. Sure, we’re operating under the guise of a ~$70 million cap right now, but there could very well be no cap at all come September (hopefully 2012). The CBA will be under close scrutiny and with the mammoth contracts — in both term and money — being handed out, owners will likely try and find a way to save themselves from themselves.

There’s further speculation — again, under the context of the current system — that the Predators will be trading Weber in the near future because the contract is massive and he will be unhappy about remaining in Nashville.

Realistically, if we’re gawking at the figure and pondering how the Predators could possibly afford the deal it makes no sense for them to pay out over $25 million in the next 12 months and send him elsewhere. They receive no genuine value from that. Similarly, we often forget that hockey players do this for a living. If you’re the highest paid person at your job, you probably don’t care what company you work for. The paycheque Weber has coming to him ought to cure what ails him.

All in all, this move was a positive one for the Predators, their fanbase and Shea Weber. A press conference is scheduled for June 25 at 1 PM (Central) where the Predators will discuss the deal.