SBD/July 26, 2012/Franchises

Predators Take "Big Financial Gamble" In Matching Weber's $110M Offer Sheet

Weber's 14-year, $110M deal is the second-richest contract in NHL history
The Predators are taking a "big financial gamble" in matching a 14-year, $110M offer sheet by the Flyers to retain restricted free agent D Shea Weber, according to a front-page piece by Duane Marsteller of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Predators officials said that the "potential cost of losing Weber, especially after already losing" D Ryan Suter to the Wild during free agency, "would have been even greater." Predators CEO Jeff Cogen said that it "probably would have resulted in a weaker team on the ice, potentially causing fan enthusiasm to wane just a season after the team had a record 25 home sellouts." He added that less fan interest "would translate into fewer ticket, souvenir and concession sales; reduced television ratings; and other drags on the team's bottom line." Cogen: "We made the investment we had to make to protect the fan base." Marsteller notes 94% of Predators season-ticket holders "have renewed for the upcoming season" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 7/26). Predators Chair Tom Cigarran said that the Weber deal is the “most important hockey transaction in franchise history." In Nashville, John Glennon noted the deal “instantly became the second-richest in NHL history.” Weber will earn $27M “in the next calendar year alone.” Cigarran in an e-mail to season ticket holders said, “We did not take or make this decision lightly, and we recognized the many ramifications it would have. Retaining Shea sends a powerful message to our own players and potential players that Nashville is a team that is in the hunt to win and this is a desirable place to play” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 7/25).
 
MESSAGE SENT: YAHOO SPORTS’ Nicholas Cotsonika wrote the Predators “had no choice, and they knew it.” The team “had to match the massive offer sheet.” This was about the “credibility and identity of the franchise.” Predators GM David Poile had previously said that the team would “match any offer sheet Weber received." The team has been "fighting to prove Nashville, under new ownership, is no longer a small-market team just trying to survive.” The Predators “wanted to send a strong message to their fans, sponsors and marketing partners” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/25). SI.com’s Allan Muir asked, "What choice did the Preds have?” After losing Suter, the franchise "was at the crossroads of credibility and irrelevance” (SI.com, 7/24). ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside wrote the Predators’ decision to “ante up ... speaks volumes, not just about the team they are but also about the team they want to be” (ESPN.com, 7/24).

THINK OF THE CHILDREN! In Nashville, Josh Cooper noted the city has “just four sheets of ice for growing youth and adult ice hockey programs, the fewest among NHL Sun Belt markets.” However, the Predators have “started the process of increasing the number of ice sheets.” The first step was “their new lease, which was finalized earlier this summer.” The deal includes a “promise from the city for a new youth hockey rink, which also could become a practice facility for the Predators” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 7/23).
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