By Tyler Davis, Staff Writer | Follow him on Twitter
Leading up to Tuesday, the Nashville Predators had not been having the best of summers. Soon after losing Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild, the Philadelphia Flyers had signed their other star defenseman, Shea Weber, to a 14-year offer sheet, one that many believed the Preds couldn’t afford to match.
But when doubt surrounding the franchise had reached the highest point in several years, GM David Poile and the rest of the team brass proved that Nashville was not an organization to be taken lightly.
While waiting to hear the outcome of newly dubbed “Weber Watch,” Predators fans received some good, but unexpected news on Monday. GM David Poile announced that the club has signed forward Sergei Kostitsyn to a two-year, $6 million deal avoiding an arbitration hearing that was set for August 2nd.
The Novopolotsk, Belarus native has made himself at home in Nashville over the last two seasons, where he led the team in goals with 23, and tied the team lead in points with 50 in the 2010-11 season. The 2011-12 season saw him notch 43 points (17g-26a).
On Tuesday, Nashville announced that it had come to terms with another restricted free agent forward in Colin Wilson, signing him to a three-year, $6 million deal. Wilson’s deal breaks down as: $1.5 million in 2012-13, $2 million in 2013-14, and $2.5 million in 2014-15.
Wilson set a career high in the 2011-12 season not only in assists with 20, but points as well by notching 35, which included 15 goals.
With this news, Preds fan anxiously returned to “Weber Watch.” Little did they know, they would not have to wait much longer. Two hours after announcing they had signed Wilson, news broke via the official Preds Twitter feed that the ownership group had made the decision to match the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet given to captain Shea Weber by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Even though this decision was a no-brainer to the fans, and it took longer than they wanted it to, many people doubted whether or not the ownership could make the commitment to such a hefty deal. But the move made by this group, not only in stepping up and matching the offer financially, but in standing behind their words, sent a message not only to the fans, but the rest of the NHL that Nashville is a team to be taken seriously now. They have proven that Nashville is now a serious hockey market, and is willing to do what it takes in order to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup to town and march it down Broadway.
Shortly after news broke on Twitter, Predators President and COO sent out an email to fans and partners stating:
“Since purchasing the team in 2007, our ownership group has stated their intentions of building a franchise that will compete for the Stanley Cup year in and year out. As a loyal Predators fan and the lifeblood of our team, I am committed to sharing significant team and building news with those that help us to achieve our goals. So, it is with great excitement that I share with you a letter from our Chairman informing you of the boldest move in franchise history, that we have matched the offer sheet to Shea Weber.”
Also sending out a letter to fans was team Chairman Tom Cigarran.
“To Predators Season Ticketholders, Partners and Fans,
In the most important hockey transaction in franchise history, we are pleased to share with you the news that, after much careful analysis, we have decided to match the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to Shea Weber, insuring that Shea will be your team’s captain and leader for the next 14 years!”
The letter ended with Ciggaran stating,
“We did not take or make this decision lightly and we recognized the many ramifications it would have. Retaining Shea sends a powerful message to our own players and potential players that Nashville is a team that is in the hunt to win and this is a desirable place to play! Other teams will now know the Predators will do everything possible to retain its own star players and cannot be viewed as a franchise that can be raided.”
With this commitment, the Sicamous, British Columbia native is set to make $54 million over the first four years. But, that is a small price to pay to have one of the leagues emerging stars as the face of your club for the next 14 years.
Over the past three seasons, Weber has earned three trips to the NHL All-Star Game, has been a two-time Norris trophy runner-up, and even more important to the fans, he is the captain and leader of this young team.
With “Weber Watch” officially over, this allows the team to be able to now focus on “re-tooling” instead of “rebuilding.” With Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne set to anchor the team for the next several years, GM David Poile can focus on building a successful Stanley Cup contending team year in and year out.