The Atlantic division could have been about to change significantly for the Rangers and without them making a single move. The stark reality however is that the division’s order of power won’t change. The Philadelphia Flyers spectacularly went out and got All Star defenseman Shea Weber’s signature on a $110m, 14 year contract with a bold offer sheet. The Predators now has seven days to match the offer, something they are likely to do.
Nashville has what appears to be a straight forward decision to make. Weber is the face of their franchise (despite the presence of elite goaltender Pekka Rinne), an absolute game changing defenseman and a player who may not even have hit his absolute prime yet. Nashville has a large amount of cap space and still need to make the cap floor, something that matching the Flyers offer will help them hit.
In the end, Nashville will likely have to match. However, as Suit noted on Twitter, it’s not just the offer in totality that will be difficult for them to swallow. The front loading is the real issue. Despite their recent success, they are still a small market team and not yet producing the revenue it takes to hand out deals of this nature.
Then there is the compensation element, which will be the Flyers’ next four first round picks. While the picks are a handsome haul, none guarantee to produce a player equal to Weber especially when you consider the Flyers’ picks likely being toward the end of each round given their probable status as a contender with Weber in the fold.
In addition, should Nashville have traded Weber the return would have probably been much greater than the compensation received for an offer sheet. The Predators level of competitiveness/on ice product would also be set back years without Weber and waiting for any subsequent draft picks to develop. This is all without factoring in the loss of Ryan Suter to the Wild and the likelihood of alienating a fan base already dealing with the Suter loss. At the least, a franchise has to sell hope.
Any Rangers fans hoping for a Weber acquisition can stop dreaming. It is either Nashville or Philadelphia for the big blueliner. Rangers’ fans also need to realise that while Weber would be a huge upgrade, the defense is far from an area of concern for the Blueshirts.
With Dan Girardi and Marc Staal both excellent rearguards in their own right the Rangers could also have their own dominant blueliner in the form of Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh has already developed at an exceptional pace and there’s no reason to suggest he can’t get much better. His maturity level and hockey intelligence are off the charts and his offensive game has developed quicker than many anticipated. While he may not have the shot of Weber (aside from Zdeno Chara, who has?) once he’s fully developed he could come close to matching the Nashville star’s physicality and overall defensive ability.
It appears to me some Rangers fans are, at times guilty of possessing ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ attitude. The Rangers have an incredibly solid defensive core with Girardi, Staal, McDonagh and Del Zotto – himself still far from the finished article. They’re all young and perhaps none have yet peaked. With guys such as Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath (perhaps a Shea Weber type down the road) in the system the Rangers still have plenty more talent on the blueline developing.
The Rangers blueline is among the league’s best. While Weber would be a great add in New York the Rangers are better off spending serious dollars in the offense by adding an elite forward to be a difference maker.