WHEN SHEA WEBER and his traveling party surreptitiously arrived in Philadelphia nearly 2 weeks ago to first discuss the idea of signing an offer sheet with the Flyers, his agent told him to soak in the entire experience.
"When you sign a 14-year deal, you need to look around and make sure," agent Jarrett Bousquet told the Daily News. "You need to make sure everything checks out, that it fits your lifestyle, that you want to live in a big city instead of a small town. Everything has to work."
When the news broke on Thursday that Weber had agreed to that gaudy, $110 million offer sheet with the Flyers, many thought that he was making his easiest play to remain with the Nashville Predators for life. After all, Predators general manager David Poile publicly said all summer that he would quickly match any offer that came to pass on Weber.
Weber, 26, has spent his entire 7-year career in the Music City, helping build the Predators from a perennial pretender to contender.
His agent, instead, wanted to stress that Weber wants to be in Philadelphia.
According to multiple sources, Weber spent parts of nearly 3 days in Philadelphia without as much as a hint of his arrival. He even enjoyed a pitch from Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider over dinner one night. Weber also toured the team's facilities and met key executives.
Bousquet said Weber was attracted to the Flyers' rich history, tradition and eagerness to win — despite the fact that it's been 36 seasons since the last Stanley Cup parade on Broad Street. He said Weber also quietly visited Detroit, San Jose and New York.
"It turns out, there was no real hard sell [on Weber]," Bousquet said. "There are a lot of great teams and organizations out there, in great cities. But when you put everything on the table, the Flyers were the best fit in nearly every category. Philly followed with the offer. In the end, it was too good to pass up."
Part of the reason Bousquet said his camp entertained offers was defensive partner's Ryan Suter's decision to leave Nashville for Minnesota and the upcoming labor uncertainty. This $110 million offer is lockout-proof, meaning that Weber will earn $26 million between now and next July 1 whether a single puck is dropped in the NHL. He is due $56 million in the first 4 years of the deal.
Plus, the NHL's owners have already proposed limiting the term of new deals to 5 seasons, which would have left a ton of money on the table. That was worth taking the risk of a salary rollback, which is also on the table.
Perhaps some of the discontent for Weber, too, started last summer when the Predators took him to salary arbitration, electing for a 1-year, $7.5 million judgment rather than a 3-year, $21 million deal.
"We decided that we weren't going to pursue teams, we waited for them to contact us," Bousquet said. "They did that almost immediately. Once July 5 hit and Ryan [Suter] signed in Minnesota, that's when we thought it was important to consider all of our options."
The Predators have until 11:59 p.m. on July 25 to match the offer. Bousquet remains optimistic Weber will be a Flyer in less than a week's time.
"We have not spoken to Nashville once since signing the offer sheet," Bousquet said. "We anticipate that they will contact us at some point. For right now, there isn't much left. It's just a waiting game — for everyone involved."