- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 24, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — The Nashville Predators have matched the staggering offering sheet made by the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Shea Weber.

The Predators made sure Tuesday they will keep their star defenseman when they decided to pay him $110 million over 14 years. Weber, 26, is the Predators‘ captain and played on a $7.5 million arbitrator’s award last season. He had 19 goals and 49 points along the way.

Nashville already lost free agent defenseman Ryan Suter to Minnesota this summer, and losing Weber would have been an unexpected blow to a defense-first team that had 104 points last season.

The Flyers were looking for someone to fill the void left by Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger’s absence.

Weber hoped he would land in Philadelphia. Now, he will likely end his career in Nashville.

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

On behalf of Predators chairman Tom Cigarran, GM David Poile and CEO Jeff Cogen, the team released a statement that called the Weber signing, “the most important hockey transaction in franchise history.”

Weber is a three-time All Star who helped Canada win gold in the 2010 Olympics and also is the mainstay of the Predators‘ defensive-minded approach. He is coming off a season in which he turned in a career-best plus-21 rating. Weber was sixth among NHL defensemen in scoring, as well, last year.

He also had a career-high 22 points on the power play and led all defensemen with 10 power-play goals.

Weber averaged 29 minutes, 9 seconds of ice time last season, second on the team to his former partner, Suter, who signed a 13-year, $98 million deal with Minnesota on July 4.

The Predators said they wanted to send a message to their fans that they remain committed to fielding a Stanley Cup contender.

“It was absolutely essential that they understand and believe that we are doing everything possible to ice a Stanley Cup competing team each and every season,” the Predators said in a release.

Also Tuesday, the Predators signed forward Colin Wilson to a three-year, $6 million contract.

NHLPA preparing counterproposal

TORONTO — The NHL Players’ Association is almost ready to table its own vision for a new collective bargaining agreement.

As negotiations with the NHL resumed, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr indicated that the union was getting close to responding to the league’s initial proposal, which included a decreased share of hockey-related revenue, term limits on contracts and a 22 percent salary rollback.

“I doubt that it will be weeks — plural,” Fehr said. “But could it be two? Yeah. It could be two, it could be less.”

The sides have entered gently into talks. This week’s three-day session in Toronto marks the fifth consecutive week Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman have sat across the table from one another, but they still seem to be feeling their way into the process.

Bruins still working after Julien extension

BOSTON — The Bruins signed coach Claude Julien to a contract extension. In five seasons with Boston, Julien has a record of 228-132-50.

The 2009 NHL coach of the year and 2011 Stanley Cup champion is third in franchise history with 410 games coached and fourth in wins, trailing Art Ross, Milt Schmidt and Don Cherry. Under Julien, the Bruins have never missed the playoffs, going 36-27 in the postseason since he arrived in 2007.



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