He has probably been the most talked about potential trade commodity all year. Fans from all over the league are salivating at the idea of adding him to their blue line. They have convinced themselves that Nashville cannot afford to have Pekka Rinne under contract at 7 million dollars per year, and also fit their captain Shea Weber and his side-kick Ryan Suter into their budget. On the one hand, this is a completely justified stance to take – Nashville is a budget team and they likely don’t have the cash to make those contracts work. On the other hand, a lengthy playoff run might provide the kind of revenue necessary to make the dollars and cents add up in their favor.
Why the Predators might not move Suter:
If you’re a Suter fan, and hoping your team can add the potential Norris candidate before the trade deadline, we’ll start with the bad news first.
The biggest complication for the Predators in terms of whether or not they can, or should let Suter go, is the implication that such a decision would have on their negotiations with Shea Weber. If you can put yourself in Weber’s shoes for just a minute, imagine how he might feel if his defensive partner, and the other key cog in Nashville’s defense, suddenly departs. What success has been achieved in Nashville of late, has come as a result of the work of their holy trinity on the back-end. Suter leaving would mean even more responsibility for Weber, and most likely, even less motivation to stay.
Nashville has defenders who can step in and try to fill Suter’s shoes. They would struggle mightily at first, but in true Barry Trotz fashion, I’m sure they would eventually surprize everyone and turn out to be great in their own right. Ryan Ellis and Jonathan Blum have both done outstanding things at lower levels, and the organization has big plans for them moving forward. However, Weber has already seen that movie about a dozen times. It seems like all big time free agents leave Nashville when the time comes for the Predators to pull out their wallet. Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Tomas Vokoun, Dan Hamhuis, and Joel Ward have all recently left for greener pastures. If Weber has to watch Suter walk as well, the Preds might have to wave good-bye to their captain in the summer of 2013 when he is eligibile for unrestricted free agent status.
At some point, the success of an organization needs to come from beyond the ice. It has to be more than the scouting staff. It has to be more than the player development team and the coaching unit. It even has to be more than the players themselves, and right now, that is the impasse the Predators have reached. At this point in time they are a club that needs their ownership to finally buck up some courage, take a stand, and dish out a serious pay day to a star who deserves it. It’s a gamble to give Suter the kind of money he will require to stick around, but such a gamble would indicate to players around the NHL that the team is now for real, and now willing to do what is necessary to vie for a championship.
A trio of Weber, Suter and Rinne seems like a pretty safe bet to me, but time will tell if the Predators brass agrees.
Why the Predators might move Suter:
That said, money doesn’t grow on trees, and if the money isn’t there, the ownership can’t magically produce it.
It’s not like they can find the extra cash by detracting from their forward group either. The team already struggles to score goals, and neeeds contribution from all four lines to squeek out victories. They also have to find the cash to resign Sergei Kostitsyn, Jordin Tootoo and Colin Wilson this summer – three fairly key contributors. While several of their core forwards see their salary dip a bit next year (for example, Mike Fisher only makes 3 million dollars next season despite a 4.2 million dollar cap hit), Pekka Rinne’s extension kicks in, and Weber may be due for yet another raise on his current 7.5 million dollar deal. Even if ownership wants to give Suter a big pay day, letting him go may not be a matter of frugality so much as a financial reality.
Suter has said he does not intend to negotiate an extension until after the season. This means that if the Predators wait on him, it’s possible he could decide to leave, or test the market. If that happened, the contract Suter signs in free agency might be too enormous for the Predators to match. The last time a major defensive talent like Suter went to market was Jay Bouwmeester, and he now commands 6.68 million dollars per season. Suter is better than Bouwmeester by a country mile, and the cap has only gone up since that contract was signed. Presumably, Suter could ink a deal for north of 7 million.
Economics aside though, obviously the biggest motivating factor here is simply asset management. If in June it looks like Suter is going to leave the organization, the Predators could decide to trade his rights before July 1st. If that happened, the best they could hope for is a prospect and/or a mid-round pick leading up to the draft. Hardly the kind of return one expects on an elite talent like Suter.
What would it take for the Predators to move Suter:
In my opinion, the Predators will keep Suter and trade his rights in June to the highest bidder. It’s quite possible they have something worked out with another team already for a better than usual return. Similar to the way they collected a 1st round pick for the rights to Timonen and Hartnell. This might be the best and most realistic way to get Suter – to try and work something out after the season. After all, Poille has always set a precedent as a GM that would rather keep his pending free agents and try to win, than deal and lower his expectations. It’s a mentality that has served him well.
Therefore, if a trade is to be done before the deadline, it will have to blow Poille away. In order to do that, it needs to be a deal that helps the Predators get into the playoffs, and also helps them long term. A package of futures is not going to be enough to entice him. Suter in the line-up gives the team a chance at a decent playoff run. For a team with aspirations of a final-four finish, and maybe more, they need a deal that doesn’t set them back. That means they likely need a top 4 defensemen back to replace Suter now (preferably someone under contract beyond this season), a good forward or forward prospect, and a high end draft pick.
Who would be interested:
(a) The Detroit Red Wings
With Lidstrom’s retirment coming at some point, the Red Wings need to find some high end guys if they want to continue their legacy. When Lidstrom missed a single game before the All-Star Game, the team was blown out of the water by the lowly Montreal Canadiens. His presence is invaluable, and Ken Holland will be searching furiously for replacements in the coming year.
Best Offer: Stuart, Sheahan, 1st, 2nd
(b) The Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks managed to keep their roster pretty much intact after last season’s near Stanley Cup victory. They did lose Christian Ehrhoff though, and they would love to replace that spot with a guy like Ryan Suter. With the salary structure in Vancouver, Suter may prove difficult for them to retain if they were to trade for him. The Canucks might only be willing to deal a rental package.
Best Offer: Ballard, Hodgson, 1st, 2nd
(c) The Washington Capitals
Mike Green cannot stay healthy in the Capital, and it is really hurting the team’s chances at making the playoffs. This team is supposed to be Cup competitive, and it’s possible that Suter would reverse their fortunes. One thing that makes these two potentially interesting trade partners, is that Alex Radulov has been rumored to want to return to the NHL next season. If there is any truth to that, the Preds may want to surround him with a couple of Russians next year to keep him from bolting again. The Caps can provide that.
Best Offer: Semin, Carlson, Kuznetsov (the Caps would probably need something else back as well)
(d) The Philadelphia Flyers
With Pronger’s career likely over, the suddenly elite back end of the Flyers is very much in need of some help. The Flyers have always had a good relationship with the Predators, and they may be one of those teams that could work out a deal for rights after the season. If not though, the Flyers do have a fairly substantial pool of talent they could offer to Nashville to acquire Suter as a rental.
Best Offer: Carle, Vanriemsdyk, 1st/2nd
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