NHL Free Agency: Philadelphia Flyers Miss out on Shea Weber; What Now?

Bill Matz@@Billadelphia1Contributor IIIJuly 24, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 07:  Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators lays a check onto Lauri Korpikoski #28 of the Phoenix Coyotes in the first period of Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on May 7, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A collective groan was audible throughout the Delaware Valley as news spread that the Nashville Predators had matched the Flyers' offer sheet to restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber, an unprecedented 14-year, $110 million contract that guarantees Weber $27 million over the next 12 months.

Despite the fact that the Predators are going to go broke paying Weber, the Flyers now have more to worry about.  

The Predators cannot trade Weber for the next 12 months as a condition of matching the offer sheet, so that option is no longer on the table.

So where do the Flyers go from here?

Currently, they have a young roster with an explosive offense, deep defense despite no big names on the blueline and a goaltender shrouded in controversy and on-ice uncertainty.  

The New York Rangers, who have beaten the Flyers eight straight times, have improved, adding highly sought-after former Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash for a bag of pucks, shifting the balance of power in the Atlantic Division, and the Eastern Conference, even further in New York's favor.  

With $7.8 million under the cap (although nobody really knows the cap situation with the CBA set to expire), the Flyers must make a move to stay competitive in hockey's toughest division.  

Shane Doan visited Philly last week, but has also made the rounds throughout the Atlantic, making stops in Pittsburgh and New York as well.  

Doan's scoring (at least 20 goals 11 of last 12 seasons) and gritty style (205 hits in 2011-12) on the wing make him an attractive option to replace Jaromir Jagr, but at 35 years old and having made $4.5 million last season, the front office should be weary of anything beyond a one-year deal.  

If Doan chooses to take a substantial pay-cut to compete in the Atlantic and join a high-profile organization like Philly, it would be a move worth making; otherwise, it does not make much sense.  

But Doan's other suitors, the Rangers ($13 million) and Penguins ($9.9 million) have more to offer Doan in terms of money, but neither can guarantee a spot on the top line alongside a budding superstar in Claude Giroux.  

Cherry Hill, New Jersey native Bobby Ryan, currently on the Anaheim Ducks' trade block, has been on the Flyers' fans and front office's radar for a few months.

Ryan, 25 years old, has scored at least 31 goals in each of his first four full NHL seasons and is signed through 2014-15 at a $5.1 million cap hit.  

Ryan grew up a Flyers fan and would welcome a trade to his hometown team,

But trading for Ryan would include the same hang-ups that nixed potential trades for Rick Nash and Shea Weber, namely giving up Sean Couturier and/or Brayden Schenn.  

Defense is still the biggest hole on the Flyers, and if Paul Holmgren was unwilling to move either Couturier or Schenn for Weber, it is unlikely (and inadvisable) to move either for a scoring winger, of which Philly already have a plethora.   

Alex Semin is an interesting free-agent winger.  

Semin has scored 197 goals in 469 games with the Washington Capitals over the first seven years of his career and is plus-92 over the last four regular seasons.  

But Semin's attitude, lack of physicality (31 hits, 19 blocked shots in 77 games last year) and playoff "production" (15 goals, 34 points, minus-one in 51 playoff games) have hindered suitors this offseason despite the 27-year-old's undeniable talent.  

Also, having made $6.7 million last season means Semin would be the highest-paid Flyer if he received at least as much as he did last year.  

The defensive group of Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros, Bruno Gervais, Andreas Lilja, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson and Brandon Manning are certainly serviceable, but could use a stud to round out the group.  

This year's free-agent class lacks that true No. 1, and the Preds' matching Philly's offer sheet put a dampening on the possibility of addressing the Bullies' biggest lineup hole.  

Do the names Michal Rozsival, Milan Jurcina, Jaroslav Spacek, Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy or Carlo Colaiacovo excite you?  

Me neither.  

And next year's free-agent list is not exactly chock full of huge names either, meaning the trade deadline may not be fruitful in terms of landing the last piece to the puzzle for the stretch run.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban is a restricted free agent, meaning Philly could either trade for the 23-year old who had 36 points and a plus-nine rating in his second NHL season, or go through this offer sheet scenario all over again.

Subban brings a physical presence as well (105 hits, 119 PIM, 113 blocked shots last year), but his 88 giveaway versus 26 takeaways last season make even Matt Carle look like a responsible defender in comparison.  

Phoenix Coyotes 25-year old D-man Keith Yandle is on the trading block and is signed through 2015-16 at $5.25 million cap hit.

Yandle has played in all 82 regular season games three years in a row and is plus-33 over that time, scoring at least 41 points each of those seasons.  

But Yandle shoots left-handed, doesn't hit (31 hits in 2011-12), doesn't block shots (77 last year, sixth among Phoenix D-men), had 75 giveaways (20 more than Matt Carle) and really does not fit the holes the Flyers are looking to fill.

So where do the Flyers go from here? 

Sad as it is to say, and contrary to my bold prediction, this may be another year to watch the young kids develop, get a little more playoff experience and then formulate a plan for the future over the next two off-seasons.  

But on a positive note, at least the Flyers have their next four first-round draft picks.  

Sorry if I was not able to veil my disappointment with my usual excitement and positivity, but this Weber thing is a bummer.  

So I'll leave you with two questions.

How would you describe the feeling of finding out Nashville had matched Weber's offer sheet?

What do you think the Flyguys should do now?


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