April 27, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (6) reacts in game one of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Shea Weber: Nashville's Only Hope

It is pretty clear that the only real choice for Nashville Predators GM David Poile, regarding the offer sheet signed by Shea Weber, is to sign. Though the Predators could save a lot of cap room and let the offer sheet stick, allowing Weber to ship out to Philadelphia, it seems like that would spell instant doom to a team that has been a recent staple in the postseason. Let’s explore the two options:

Keep Him:

Though it was definitely a huge loss for the Predators to lose Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild, it seemed like a small positive was that they would have a bit of cap space open. Matching Shea Weber and Philadelphia’s massively front-loaded 14-year, $110 million offer sheet ($68 million in signing bonuses over the first 6 years, with $27 million alone in the first year), would pretty much kill that cap space. Philadelphia clearly benefits from either outcome here, either gaining a rare talent on defense, or keeping Weber away from division rivals for the rest of his career.

Shea Weber is, and would continue to be the leader of a Predators team that has lost a lot so far this offseason. His production is unquestionable, and it is not like the Predators are being ripped off in this situation. Simply put, talent like this is rare, and extremely coveted. With the loss of Suter, the positional need is especially great, considering Weber’s ability. Weber’s presence and production will keep the Predators relevant, even in the difficult Central Division where the Blues, Blackhawks, and Red Wings have all improved.

“We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea,” Poile said in a release before Philadelphia entered the picture. With such a huge offer sheet, however, there will undoubtedly be at least a drop of hesitation. Is Poile prepared to make such a huge commitment?

Let Him Go:

There is really no attractive piece to this option, especially if the already small-market Predators want to remain legitimate in the eyes of their fans. The Predators would essentially have to restart their franchise by letting Shea Weber sign with Philadelphia. Sure, they would receive four first-round draft picks as compensation over the next four years, but you do not just replace talent like Shea Weber instantly, especially on the defensive end. Plus, even a fantastic draft pick would take time to develop. As I said, this is a small market team that can not afford to take the time to develop players at a position of need. The Predators have made the playoffs four of the last five years, and Nashville fans will likely be repulsed by the lack of success likely to come to the Predators without Weber. Personally, I don’t even know if the Preds would be better than the Blue Jackets with this kind of loss. The Predators have until Thursday to match the offer sheet.

Surprisingly, in ESPN’s Sportsnation Poll, fans have voted equally in favor and in detest of the Predators matching the offer sheet for Shea Webber. What do you think? Comment or vote below!

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Tags: Central Division David Poile Nashville Predators Shea Weber

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