Originally written on Inside Smashville  |  Last updated 11/5/14

The Nashville Predators announced on Tuesday afternoon that they matched the offer sheet submitted to team captain Shea Weber. The 26-year old signed the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers last Thursday. Weber is now under contract with the Predators for the duration of the contract.

In what the Predators called the “most important transaction in history,” Nashville also just entered into the largest contract in franchise history, making Weber the highest paid player in the NHL for the 2012-13 season. Weber’s $14 million is $2 million more than Brad Richards, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Tyler Myers who are all set to make $12 million next season. The deal is also the second largest contract in NHL-history behind only Alex Ovechkin’s $124 million contract.

General Manager David Poile always maintained that the Predators would match any offer sheet signed by the captain, but when the $110 million contract included a $13 million signing bonus for each of the next four years, the Predators issued a statement acknowledging receipt of the offer sheet, adding “Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it and all of its ramifications in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term.”

The offer sheet was so front-loaded that it was easy to assume the contract was designed to make matching it difficult for a small-market club like Nashville. Weber will make $68 million in the first six years of his contract, just in bonus money. The huge contract sees Weber making $14 million in the first four years of the deal, followed by $12 million in years five and six. Years 7 through 10 will see Weber locked in at $6 million each season. The contract wraps up with $3 million in the eleventh year of the deal, dropping off to $1 million for years 12-14.With the collective bargaining agreement running out in September, it is extremely unlikely that extremely long-term, front-loaded deals with huge signing bonuses will be allowed, so Weber clearly saw his last chance to cash in and he took it.

Before signing the offer sheet from the Flyers, Weber also met with representatives from the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings. After the offer sheet was matched, one of Weber’s agents, Kevin Epp went on 102.5 The Game to discuss the situation. When asked if the Predators knew that Weber had met with other teams, Epp said that “no one needed to know what the process was or how it took place.”

John Glennon of The Tennessean spoke with Weber’s other agent, Jarrett Bousquet, who said “He’s glad to be back” and “He’s really happy that ownership made the commitment to him. Bousquet is the same agent who just last week said that “I don’t think he would sign an offer sheet unless you were hoping you were able to go to that team.” While the implication was that Weber wanted out of Nashville, on Tuesday afternoon, Weber’s representatives changed their tune, suggesting all’s well that ends well.

Or is it?

It seemed that just moments after the news broke that the Predators would match the deal, speculation as to just how many years Weber would remain with the Predators already began.

Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted “fair to say Weber and those close to him are surprised Preds matched. You don’t sign a sheet like that if you expect the team to match.”

Dan Tencer, host of Inside Sports on 630 CHED, and host of Oilers Radio Network broadcasts added via Twitter that “Nashville’s work continues now, trying to convince Weber not to ask for a trade in a year. As of now, he’d clearly rather be elsewhere.”

It seemed as though other comments suggesting the same were endless.

But is the Predators ownership group prepared to pay Weber $27 million in the span of one calendar year to just turn around and have him traded by Poile? The contract is so front-loaded that trading the captain seems less appealing after the first year. Of course, rules dictate that the Predators cannot trade Weber for one year after having matched the offer, so there is no way around that initial $28 million, even if they wanted to try to get some assets for Weber.

Had Nashville allowed Weber to go, the Predators would have been awarded the Flyers’ first round draft pick for the next four seasons. After having lost all-star defenseman Ryan Suter in free agency to Minnesota, it seemed unthinking to Predators’ faithful that the team would lose both of its franchise defensemen in the span of a couple weeks time. The four first-round picks, surely late first round picks, hardly seemed a fair return for a future hall of famer.

The two-time runner-up for the Norris Trophy has played his entire career, 7 seasons, with the Predators, recording 99 goals and adding 164 assists for 263 points in 480 games.

With the captain locked in long-term, Nashville now needs to turn back to looking for the replacement to Suter before the season starts… a season that the ownership of the Nashville Predators really, really hope takes place.

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