Flyers Risk Retaliation with Bold Play to Land Shea Weber, But History Reveals Risk of Using Offer Sheets Is Minimal

Flyers Risk Retaliation with Bold Play to Land Shea Weber, But History Reveals Risk of Using Offer Sheets Is MinimalThe Flyers dropped a bombshell late Wednesday night, sending shockwaves not only through Nashville but across the entire NHL with their signing of Shea Weber to a mammoth offer sheet.

It was the first offer sheet signed in the league in two years and just the seventh in eight offseasons under the current collective bargaining agreement. Five of the previous six offer sheets were matched, keeping the players with their previous teams. That could well happen with Weber as well, though the Flyers made the contract as unpalatable as possible for the Predators with $80 million of the $110 million offer due in the first six years of the 14-year deal.

Whether or not the Flyers end up with Weber, there's no denying that Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren has shaken things up in a major way. He's even managed to overshadow the ongoing CBA talks as the top hockey story of the day, though this contract offer could have serious implications there as well. After all, it's mighty hard to take the owners' demands seriously when they're the ones handing out $110 million contracts in the midst of the negotiations.

But within the league, Holmgren risked backlash from his fellow GMs by venturing into territory most have steered clear of. And Holmgren did so in spectacular fashion. His offer to Weber is worth more than the previous six offer sheets signed combined, with those totaling just $97.1 million. Edmonton's attempt to poach Thomas Vanek from Buffalo with a seven-year, $50-million offer in 2007 was the previous high, and that was less than half of what Holmgren has put on the table for Weber.

Part of the reason GMs have shied away from using offer sheets is the fear of retaliation. Once that door is open, other GMs will be less hesitant about going after that club's restricted free agents. That's the theory anyway. In reality, none of the teams that have attempted to use offer sheets during this CBA have faced any serious reprisals.

Well, at least not in the form of other offer sheets in response. Edmonton's Kevin Lowe did get challenged to a fight in barn by then-Anaheim GM Brian Burke after the Ducks chose not to match the Oilers' five-year, $21.5-million offer to Dustin Penner. That was the lone offer not matched in the salary cap era, and Penner's struggles during his stay in Edmonton didn't exactly make a strong case for other teams to go that route.

Still, despite the consternation that Lowe caused both Anaheim and Buffalo that summer of 2007, neither team responded with an offer sheet on any Oilers. The only time teams have made offer sheets against each other was in 2008, when Vancouver signed Blues forward David Backes to an offer sheet and St. Louis later tried to land Canucks forward Steve Bernier. Both offers were matched with no outward signs of enmity from either camp.

Holmgren's raid on Nashville is a bit more pronounced though, and it's possible the boldness of the move could invite some retribution. Not that it would bother Holmgren too much if adding Weber helps the Flyers finally win another Cup.

There's not too much immediate risk though. Philadelphia's only unsigned RFAs this summer are forwards Jakub Voracek, Harry Zolnierczyk and Tom Sestito and defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon. Of those, only Voracek is a significant contributor, and even he does not come close to offering the impact of losing or adding Weber.

Things could get a little trickier for Philadelphia if Nashville decides that revenge is indeed a dish best served cold. The Flyers have Wayne Simmonds, who broke out with a 28-goal campaign while providing a needed physical presence up front last season, due to reach RFA status next summer, with star forward Claude Giroux and emerging young stars Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier all due to be RFAs in 2014. Nashville was reportedly asking for Schenn and Couturier in trade talks involving Weber, so the Flyers may be well-advised to lock up those youngsters before they can reach the market.

While Philadelphia's biggest concerns on the RFA front may be a couple years down the road, other teams may have more immediate worries. If Holmgren's audacious move takes a bit of the taboo off utilizing offer sheets, it's possible other GMs could follow his lead this summer.

That could be bad news for teams looking to lock up other coveted RFAs like Evander Kane in Winnipeg, Ryan O'Reilly in Colorado, P.K. Subban in Montreal, John Carlson in Washington and Jamie Benn in Dallas. More likely though, Holmgren's bold play to land Weber will prove to be an outlier and not the start of any trend toward greater use of offer sheets.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Photo via Facebook/Shea Weber#6

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