DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings seem to be doing everything in their power to build a Stanley Cup contending team for next season, but can’t seem to land that final franchise changing type player to complete the roster.
The latest superstar to turn down the Wings’ overtures is Nashville restricted defenseman Shea Weber.
Early Thursday morning, Weber signed an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers that will pay the two-time Norris Trophy finalist $110 million over 14 years. Weber, who will make $68 million in bonuses over the first six years, will pocket $14 million in each of the first four years of the deal.
According to a source, the Wings had expressed interest in Weber and had “numerous conversations” with his agent.
The Wings seemed to do everything they could to engage Weber to try and find out what he was looking for in a deal, but never were able to entice his camp into negotiating.
“If you’re not the No. 1 team, it doesn’t matter,” the source said. “We explored, but we could only get to a certain level.”
The Tennessean reported that Weber visited Detroit, Philadelphia, San Jose and the New York Rangers after free agency began July 1.
“When Philadelphia came to us with a more than fair market contract, it was too good for us to pass up,” Weber’s agent Jarrett Bousquet told the Tennessean. “If you look at Philadelphia and the great history and tradition they have it just seemed like too good of an opportunity to let pass.
“We had to take a long look at it,” Bousquet continued. “It was a hard decision, but Shea wants to give himself the best opportunity to win, as well as work under the conditions of the current collective bargaining agreement.”
The source also denied reports that the Wings had been in contact with Nashville about possibly trading for Weber.
Had Detroit given Weber an offer sheet it would have been a first under general manager Ken Holland’s watch.
The Wings have really never had to because they’ve had rosters with the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull and Chris Chelios.
“Times have changed,” the source said.
Holland said prior to the start of free agency that he would do whatever it took to improve the team in the offseason.
The Wings are still in need of a top six forward and a top four defensemen, which there are none left on the open market and therefore a trade may need to be made in order to fill that void.
It’s just another chink in what once was the luster of playing for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wings had a distinct game plan once free agency started after losing Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (trade).
They made pitches to the top two unrestricted free agents on the market – defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise – when the bidding window opened.
Detroit seemed to be in serious contention for Suter, increasing its first offer to $88 million over 13 years. The Wings also were allowed to have a sit-down meeting with the prized defenseman prior to him making his choice.
A day after the meeting, Suter, along with Parise, who was offered $73 million over 13 years from the Wings, chose the Minnesota Wild. Both got $98 million over 13 years.
With Suter off the board the Wings immediately turned their attention to pursuing Weber.
Weber, 26, became a restricted free agent after he was awarded a one-year deal worth $7.5 million from an arbitrator.
The Predators have seven days to make a decision on matching the deal or letting Weber, who scored 19 goals and had 30 assists last season, go and be compensated by draft picks.
“We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea,” Nashville general manager David Poile said in a statement. “Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team. 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.”
Weber, who had a career-best plus-21 rating and 22 points on the power play last season, is a three-time All Star and helped Canada win gold in the 2010 Olympics. He led all defensemen with 10 power play goals and was sixth amongst blue liners in scoring.
And per the current collective bargaining agreement, if the Nashville does match the heavily front-loaded deal the Flyers it wouldn’t be able to trade Weber for one year.
If the Predators decline to match the offer they would receive four first round picks as compensation.
Weber adds to a growing list of players the Wings have either been rebuffed by or are currently awaiting word on where they’ll play next season.
Detroit continues to wait on whether Phoenix forward Shane Doan will return to the Coyotes or sign with another team.
“We’ve been in contact,” Holland said earlier in the week. “We’ve talked about what we’re thinking of. They know we have interest.”
There is a long list of teams interested in Doan, who’s looking for a multiyear deal, after many of them lost out on the bidding for Parise.
The Wings appear to be on Doan’s short list of where he would like to play if he doesn’t return to Phoenix.
Doan, who made $4.5 million last season, has played his entire career for the organization, which moved from Winnipeg after the 1995-96 season.
Detroit also is one of the teams reportedly on the list that Columbus’ Rick Nash would waive his no-movement clause for, which was reported by the Columbus Post-Dispatch.
Earlier this week, a source with knowledge of the situation said Detroit made “a hell of an offer” to the Blue Jackets for Nash.
However, the offer generated zero conversation.
It’s not known what the Wings offered, but reports have said that Columbus general manager Scott Howson is looking for two proven NHL forwards in return.
That’s a pretty steep asking price for any team, including the Wings, who would more than likely have to part with proven talent like Johan Franzen or Valtteri Filppula and perhaps even throw in an up-and-coming star like Darren Helm or Gustav Nyquist.
Howson is willing to holdout until he gets what he’s looking for in return.
It seems unlikely that Howson would want to deal Nash, who will make $7.8 million in each of the next six seasons, to a Central Division rival like Detroit and be stuck seeing the face of the Blue Jackets’ franchise so often during the regular season.