While the hockey world waits to see whether the Nashville Predators will match the Flyers' $110 million offer sheet to All-Star defenseman Shea Weber, a pair of Philadelphia's own restricted free agents are left to wonder how (if at all) the outcome of the offer sheet will affect their own status with the team.
Forward Jakub Voracek and defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon both remain unsigned as of now. The Voracek negotiations are, by far, the dicier of the two.
When the Flyers had their end-of-season media day after the Devils series, general manager Paul Holmgren said that he did not anticipate that Voracek would be a tough signing. However, he also said he anticipated getting Matt Carle re-signed below market value ahead of July 1.
Voracek's agent, Petr Svoboda, is looking for a substantial raise on the $2.25 million that his client earned last season on a one-year contract. Based on other recent signings such as Teddy Purcell's deal with Tampa Bay, is believed that the current asking price on Voracek on a multi-year deal is close to the $4 million range. At this point, if there is to be a multi-year agreement, the Flyers would be paying the soon-to-be 23-year-old Voracek based more on his potential continued development than his track record to date.
The demands may be significantly lower in a one-year deal. However, Voracek would be a restricted free agent again next summer and the price tag could shoot up (lowered cap ceiling or not) if he were to have a big season.
Bourdon's situation is not nearly as tough from a financial standpoint. The 22-year-old figures to get a modest raise on the $875,000 he received in the third and final season of his entry-level contract. While he generally played well in 2011-12 prior to suffering concussion issues in the latter part of the season and playoffs, Bourdon only has 45 games on NHL experience under his belt.
However, Bourdon is already affected by a numbers crunch on the blueline. Even without Weber in the picture, the Flyers would have eight veteran NHL defensemen (Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros, Bruno Gervais and Andreas Lilja) plus waiver-exempt Erik Gustafsson to compete with Bourdon for a roster spot.
If the Flyers add Weber to the picture, there's no spot for Bourdon unless there are multiple injuries when the 2012-13 season (eventually) starts. Because he is no longer on his entry-level contract, Bourdon would require waivers to be sent to the Phantoms next year. The team has a difficult decision to make on him. He definitely played well enough as an NHL rookie to merit some playing time next year, but will it be in Philadelphia?
Increasingly, it seems as if the Weber offer sheet will end up going one of two ways: the Predators match it and try to manage around the severe financial hardships it will cause or else they arrange a de facto trade for Weber in exchange for not matching the offer sheet.
The least likely scenario appears to be the possibility of the Predators simply walking away with the four first-round picks that would come their way if they don't match.
In the "Gratton trade" scenario, the Predators would decline to match the offer sheet and then immediately send some or all of the first-round picks back to Philadelphia in exchange for players. If this is the case, I think Bourdon or Gustafsson will be one of the secondary pieces heading to Nashville.
It is also not out of the question that Voracek could end up in Nashville.
Yes, the Flyers have already lost substantial pieces at wing with the depatures of Jaromir Jagr and James van Riemsdyk. Yes, the club would like to see if Voracek (who closed the season out with the best two-way hockey of his career) can fill the Jagr void. But if the club refuses to deal either Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn -- even at the risk of losing out on the best all-around defenseman in the NHL -- they will almost have to make Voracek available.
This is especially true if Svoboda was looking for more money than the club was willing to pay even BEFORE taking on Weber's $7.9 million cap hit (not to mention paying out all the signing bonus money due to the defenseman under the terms of the offer sheet). If Weber comes, the Flyers would ideally prefer to shed a couple salaries. With Nashville having so much required spending left to get to the cap floor, Voracek could probably get both more money and a multi-year deal.
If Voracek were to get dealt to, he could step right into a top-six role in Nashville. The Flyers would feel his loss but still have some decent options for Giroux's right wing (Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, shifting Danny Briere from second-line center to top-line RW). But Philly would definitely be much weaker on the wings that they were a year ago. The trade-off would be potentially having the top blueline in the NHL.
A deal that would send Voracek, Meszaros , one of Bourdon or Gustafsson and two or three of the first-round picks to Nashville for Weber and the return of one or two of the first-round picks may or may not get it done.
I'm sure David Poile would prefer one of Couturier or Brayden Schenn and the healthier Coburn instead of Meszaros
(who is coming off back surgery but is just a year removed from winning the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers top defenseman). However, I would think that, if that is the case, Paul Holmgren would tell the Predators to go ahead and match the offer sheet if they can.
If the Flyers had been willing to trade all that in the first place, they wouldn't have gone the offer sheet route. Now that the Predators are under the gun of matching the offer sheet, I think the return they can realistically expect goes down a bit -- but not as much as some may think.
Before, Nashville still faced the possibility of losing Weber as a UFA next summer. Now, if they can somehow come up with the money to match without totally destroying the money-losing franchise's financial outlook, they know they can keep Weber for the rest of his career if they so desire.