With the upcoming arbitration of Shea Weber looming, Predators fans and non-Predators fans alike are waiting to see if the star defenseman will be on a 1-2 year deal or a long-term deal brokered out before (or during) the arbitration.
However, regardless of what happens over the next couple of weeks, one question keeps running through my mind. Is it conceivably possible that the Predators will be without one of their top 3 players at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season?
Easy answer there is yes, it is without a doubt conceivably possible that the Predators could be without Suter or Rinne at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. David Poile has continually stated that it is the top priority of the team, after re-signing Weber and finding another forward to help the team, to get Suter and Rinne signed to long term deals. Yet, financially, does it make sense to sign them both to long term deals? Or does it make sense to sign one to a long term deal and possibly trade the other during the season or trade the other during the off-season for the rights to that particular player?
Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne both make nearly the same amount of money right now. Needless to say, Suter and Rinne will probably be looking for nearly the same amount of money that Shea Weber receives on his upcoming contract, and rightfully so. With 3 potential contracts eating around $22-$23 million dollars a year, that would leave $40 million left in cap space to pay the remaining 20 players on the active roster. Factoring in Erat/Legwand/Fisher/and Hornqvist’s upcoming salaries, you’re down to $24 million in cap space to pay the remaining 16 players on the active roster. So, if you’ve done your math properly, that averages out to $1.5 million per player. Granted, some will make more than that, but the average player salary for an AVERAGE player is around $1.5-$2 million a year currently. Nashville has 12 active roster players that will be either an RFA or a UFA at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Add a deterrent of the Predators NEVER spending to the cap ceiling and it poses a very interesting situation.
The most obvious choice to be traded? Pekka Rinne. Wait, don’t leave so soon, let me explain what I mean:
Evidenced when Suter is injured, Shea Weber almost seems to be a shell of his self without his linemate on the ice (this season he had 1g/2a/-8 in 9 games while Suter was injured, the team went 3-5-1). Weber and Suter are like Ice Cream and Cake, a definitive combination of superiority. Suter’s hockey-smarts and on-ice abilities are hardly rivaled in the defensive aspect of the game. He’s a true decision maker and I don’t believe Weber would want anyone else as his partner on the ice.
Pekka Rinne is one of the top goaltenders in the world. Not the league, the world. He has a monstrous net presence and has one of the best work ethics in the league. He does not like to be beaten and gets visibly angry when you do sneak one past him. He makes the most difficult saves look simple and makes the easy saves look like highlight-reel material. However, behind Pekka Rinne lie 3, maybe even 4, NHL-quality goaltenders in the making. Anders Lindback is the real deal. Everything that Pekka Rinne is, but a few years younger. Lindback will be coming in his prime soon and will be JUST as good as Rinne is now. There is also Jeremy Smith and recently drafted Magnus Hellberg, who could be JUST as good as Rinne/Lindback as well, evidenced by what we saw at the rookie development camp. Let’s not forget Chet Pickard either.
Now, all that being said, losing either of these star players would be tough to swallow for any Predators fan, however when you have backup players that can be JUST as good as the star player, you have to pick the lesser of two evils. In this case, that, in my mind, would be Pekka Rinne.
Granted, David Poile is a wizard in terms of finding ways to make the most out of his roster and team, based on what the owners/executives allow him to do in terms of spending, yet it’s possible that there could be plenty of new faces on the Predators come late 2012.
Look at the positives though, if one of the two IS to be traded during the season, the trade could produce the parts necessary to take Nashville deep in to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Would you be ok with a Suter/Rinne trade if it landed Lord Stanley in Nashville? Wrap that question around the proverbial noodle for a little while.
Thanks for reading!