Shea Weber’s Addition Could Finally Push Flyers Over the Top in Quest to End Stanley Cup Drought

Shea Weber's Addition Could Finally Push Flyers Over the Top in Quest to End Stanley Cup DroughtSometime in the next seven days, the Flyers will find out if their gambit to land Shea Weber has worked.

That's how long the Predators have to decide whether or not to match Philadelphia's 14-year, $110-million offer sheet to the star defenseman. The Flyers made it as painful as possible by front-loading the deal with $68 million in signing bonuses and $80 million due over the first six years of the contract, but Nashville will still have a hard time letting its captain go.

While it's clear that losing Weber on the heels of having fellow standout blueliner Ryan Suter sign with Minnesota earlier this month would seriously damage Nashville's chances to compete, what would gaining Weber do for the Flyers and the balance of power in the East?

Philadelphia has been knocking on the door in recent years, reaching the conference final in 2008 and the Cup Final in 2010, but the Flyers haven't been able to snap a championship drought that dates back to 1975.

Bringing Weber to Broad Street could go a long way toward changing that. He's the best all-around defenseman in the league already and is just coming into his prime. Adding Chris Pronger on the back end of his career helped push the Flyers to the Final in 2010. Pronger turned 35 at the start of his first season in Philadelphia and was on the downside of his career at that point even before concussion-related issues left his playing future in doubt.

Weber, on the other hand, is just 26. His best years should be ahead of him. And that's a scary thought for a guy who's been a Norris finalist the past two seasons and should have won both times. Weber is a force on both ends of the ice, with the 6-foot-4, 232-pounder providing a physical presence with his size (177 hits last season), solid play in his own zone (plus-21, 140 blocked shots), offensive contributions (19-30-49 in 78 games) and leadership.

There probably shouldn't be anyone getting $110 million to play hockey or any other sport, but if you're going to break the bank, Weber is the kind of guy you do it for. That's especially true for the Flyers, who still have questions in goal after Ilya Bryzgalov's shaky first season in Philadelphia that ended with some serious struggles in the playoffs (3.46 GAA, .887 save percentage). With Pronger not expected back anytime soon, the Flyers need a true defensive stalwart to help settle things down in front of Bryzgalov.

The Flyers have all the other pieces in place. Up front their loaded with emerging superstar Claude Giroux (28-65-93 last season), veterans Scott Hartnell (37-30-67), Danny Briere (16-33-49) and Max Talbot (19-15-34), young players who have already begun to establish themselves in Wayne Simmonds (28-21-49), Jakub Voracek (18-31-49) and Matt Read (24-23-47) and the next wave just starting to show what they can do in Sean Couturier (13-14-27) and Brayden Schenn (12-6-18, plus 9 points in 11 playoff games).

The defense can provide Weber with a strong supporting cast with Kimmo Timonen, Andrez Meszaros, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman, Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais all on board. And coach Peter Laviolette has proven he can lead a team to the promised land, guiding Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and the Flyers to the Final in 2010.

Even with Weber, it won't be an easy road for the Flyers, who will face stiff challenges from the Penguins and Rangers within their own division and the Bruins and perhaps Capitals, Panthers and Sabres elsewhere in the conference. Some of those teams may even feel some pressure to make a countermove, upping the ante in the pursuit of trade targets like Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan.

Nothing is guaranteed, not even for $110 million. But a Flyers team with Weber on the blue line is certainly a reason for the rest of the East to worry. And maybe even whoever emerges out of the West next spring would have some cause for concern as well.

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.

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