The Nashville Predators did what most would expect on Tuesday, matching the Philadelphia Flyers' offer sheet for Shea Weber. In the end, it was simply a matter of what they couldn't afford to do. Worse than paying Weber's exorbitant salary was the prospect of coming out of this offseason with both members of their top defensive pairing having departed.
But, while the Predators now have their number one defenceman locked up just shy of forever, the Flyers still lack theirs. As Ryan Lambert pointed out when the offer sheet was first announced, the fact that Weber was nearly a Flyer was one story. What it said about Chris Pronger's career -- that it was likely over -- was another.
The Flyers thus find themselves with no Pronger and no Weber. Also: no Ryan Suter, whom they missed out on despite a big-money offer, no Matt Carle, whom they let walk, and, effectively, no number one defenseman long-term.
Now all eyes turn from the man that signed the offer sheet to the man that devised it. Paul Holmgren's defense corps remains in need, and with Kimmo Timonen at 37 years old, it projects to be even further in need soon. The rest of the corps are strong, complementary players, but they're going to be far less effective with no one to complement. From Broad Street Hockey:
Braydon Coburn is still on the upswing of his career, but can he hold down the top pairing as a No. 1 guy? How many more minutes can the Flyers get out of him per game, anyway? Andrej Meszaros has been mostly a third pairing guy over the last two seasons with the Flyers. How much more will they get out of him?
Nicklas Grossmann is only 27 years old, but he does have knee issues and has never been a top-pairing guy. A nice player to plug the middle pairing at best. Luke Schenn was a third-pairing defenseman last season with theToronto Maple Leafs (who are really bad at hockey) and while he has potential, there's no guarantee he'll be the player the league thought he'd be when he was drafted fifth overall.
Despite some brazen attempts to find the answer, the Flyers are left with a massive question mark on their back end. What do they do now?
While we're sure Holmgren will continue to wear out his bid paddle chasing Shane Doan and Bobby Ryan because he's never met a derby he didn't like, the market for available blueliners is tapped right out.
He could attempt to poach another restricted free agent, but even that market is pretty dry, unless you believe P.K. Subban, Michael Del Zotto, or John Carlson can be the answers.
He could wait to see who's available next year, but if it wasn't clear from his offers to Suter and Weber that he's looking to win now, I don't know what to tell you.
That leaves the trade route, and this seems the most likely, especially when you consider what Holmgren was willing to give up for Shea Weber. According to Darren Dreger, the Flyers offered Matt Read, Andrej Meszaros, a 1st, two 2nds and a 3rd for Weber -- a package Nashville declined -- so it's not like they aren't willing to part with assets to get what they want.
The question now is: what does Holmgren want?