Nashville retains Weber

Shea Weber will remain in Nashville. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Shea it aint so.

The Flyers have struck out with another marquee free agent.

Nashville announced it had matched the Flyers' 14-year, 110-million offer sheet to star defenseman Shea Weber, who thus is retained by the Predators.

“In tendering an offer sheet to Shea Weber, we were trying to add a top defenseman entering the prime of his career," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said in a statement.  "With Nashville matching our offer, we wish Shea and the Predators all the best.”

Holmgren said there would be no further comment at the moment.

As reported earlier today, Nashville seemed on the verge of matching when two sources said it had not been involved in trade talks with the Flyers since Weber signed Philadelphia's offer sheet on Wednesday.

The absence of trade talks led to speculation that Nashville was going to sign him.

For the Flyers, they figure to turn to Plan B - trying to sign Shane Doan or acquiring Bobby Ryan. Or will Holmgren give an offer sheet to another restricted free agent, such as Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban?

But make no mistake, this is a MAJOR setback to the franchise. A team with Claude Giroux and Shea Weber as its anchors - along with a terrific young nucleus - would have been a perennial Stanley Cup contender.

In a news release, Nashville said, in part, "Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with 'deep pockets?' "

To avoid that negative message — and, more importantly, to land arguably the NHL's best all-around defenseman — Nashville's 10-member ownership group was able to justify the staggering contract, which is the second-largest in league history. Washington's Alex Ovechkin signed a 13-year, $124 million deal in 2008.

The Flyers had front-loaded the contract — $27 million in the first calendar year, $68 million over the first five seasons — to make it difficult for the small-market Predators to match it.

"He's excited; he said the ownership group stepped up," said Jarrett Bousquet, one of Weber's agents.

 Give the Flyers an 'A' for effort, but the bottom line is this: After striking out on free-agents Weber, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Flyers are no better than the team that lost in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season.

Tweeted one fan after hearing the news that the Flyers didn’t land the game-changing defenseman that they desperately wanted: “I'm so bummed I don't even want to use my Weber grill tonight.”


(more to come)