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Trading with the Enemy: The Conundrum of Ryan Suter


Photography by Tom DiPace

It has been brought to the attention of the 29 other teams in the NHL that Ryan Suter will be the most coveted D-man in the upcoming free agency frenzy. Coming off a first time All-Star appearance and putting up steadily increasing numbers every year has made Suter a hot commodity with some of his best years still on the horizon (he’s only 27).

Any team, Nashville included, would relish the services of Ryan Suter but much has been batted around about possible destinations outside of the Predators organization for the upcoming UFA.

Ryan Suter has been very cryptic and clichéd in his commentary throughout the season. He entangled himself around the All-Star break with comments regarding what his future plans were and what he felt the Nashville Predators were or weren’t doing to make the franchise better. Suter lobbied for Poile and Co. to improve the team and make the Predators a Cup contender. David Poile did just that with the acquisitions of Gill, Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn. There isn’t much more the organization could do to prove to both Weber and Suter of their intentions to take Nashville to the next level. Although the Predators ran into a well-coached and chemistry-laden team in the Phoenix Coyotes that would prove to be their undoing, the Predators look to be primed for success in the coming years with an elite goalie locked up for 7 seasons and a great crop of farm-raised talent like Smith, Bourque, Josi, Ellis and Spaling coming up through the ranks.

But the real uncertainty lies with the amount of free agents Nashville has to negotiate this off-season…starting with the Big 2.

Weber is an RFA and not as much to worry about. A contract extention should be in the near future for the Captain of the Predators…but what of the Boy Wonder to Weber’s Batman?

Ryan Suter can enter free agency and make a boatload of money, probably in the $6-7M range and for good reason. He had his highest point production in a season this year, he rarely misses time for illness or injury (only 32 games in 7 seasons), and at 27 years old, Suter is entering the prime of his career.

To have a talent like Suter walk for nothing, to this writer, is not an option. The draft is coming up soon and Poile has made it very clear he wants to get back into the first round of the draft. Poile has been a master over the years of trading the rights to players for picks when he knew he was going to lose their services. Case in point: Dan Hamhuis.

The first destination has been thrown around ad nauseum by many fans of the Winged Wheel. Detroit.

With Lidstrom possibly retiring (again), Detroit will need a competent replacement for the long haul and Detroit has the resources both with money and movable assets to acquire Ryan Suter. Even though this would be the biggest slap in the face of all the Nashville Predators, business as they say is business. Suter is looking not only for more money but to finally step from beneath the mythical shadow of Shea Weber.

So, what would be the terms?

For Suter, and it’s not to crazy to imagine, I would like to see at least the signing rights for Jiri Hudler and a 3rd round pick for signing rights for Suter. If Detroit gets these rights, they will not let Suter go like Philadelphia did to the aforementioned Dan Hamhuis. Detroit would lock up Suter long term, probably 5-6 years for $6.5-7.5M per season.

Aside from the hatred of trading with the Evil Empire of Detroit, it would seem everybody wins. Nashville gets a pick in the draft for development which Nashville loves to do, and gets Jiri Hudler, a player that Detroit could possibly lose to free agency who would benefit Alexander Radulov, a fellow countryman and former KHL’er. Hudler is young and fast and would be huge on the second line with Wilson/Legwand and Radulov (if Nashville is able to hold onto him).

The second suitor as explained by John Jaeckel is that Chicago could be in the running for Ryan Suter. But what can Chicago give up for the signing rights to Suter?

Chicago has 8 picks in the upcoming draft and all will be about mid- to low-mid of the pack. Chicago doesn’t have anybody coming off for free agency of note aside from Oduya and that is not much for negotiating. Aside from Jaeckel’s argument, there isn’t a ton that Chicago is needing for defensemen. With the top pairing of Seabrook and Keith, Suter will have to fall back to a second d-pair with Nick Leddy. If Suter is wanting the kind of money and attention that he rightfully deserves as the #1 defenseman on a team, Chicago seems a highly unlikely place, but with their cap room anything is possible.

It has also been noted that Minnesota could be a possible landing spot for Ryan Suter. Minesota was lead in points for defenseman in the regular season by Jared Spurgeon (Who?…exactly). Minnesota boasts some bright stars on offense and at times can get solid goaltending from Backstrom and Harding but their defense has been lacking since Brent Burns was sent to the Sharks. The biggest problem for the Wild is the sheer amount of UFA/RFA’s that they have to contend with in the off-season. They may be confronted with something similar to what Florida had to do with bringing in talent and pushing the price up to get to the cap floor. The addition of Ryan Suter’s salary bump would help that tremendously and give them a star for their blueline.

A first-round pick from Minnesota to get the signing rights to Suter may be pretty steep, but might be the answer for the defensive woes oppressing the Wild.

Then, of course, there is the option that Ryan Suter stays put in Nashville. The elephant in the room will be how much money Suter and Weber command for their extended stay in Nashville. Both should fetch around $6.5-7.5M a piece and one would hope for at least 4-5 years length in contract. The dicey part of this scenario is how much payroll and cap space will be relegated to three players. $21-23M for Rinne, Weber and Suter doesn’t leave much wiggle room for an organization that has yet to come close to spending fully to the cap.

If you factor in the raises for Suter and Weber and the contracts already in place for the Predators for next season, that total equals roughly $45 million. The Predators will need to sign 12 more players to fill out the roster including re-signing RFA’s. With the cap at $63.4M (or as to be determined through the CBA negotiations), Nashville will have roughly $1.53M per player to fill out the roster and with trying to retain Sergei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov, the Predators will have a hard time even staying under the cap to fill in basic roster spots.

It has already been an interesting season for the Predators with Poile going “All-In” for a chance to go farther in the playoffs, but this summer and the albatross which is the negotiating of Ryan Suter may prove to be the defining moment, good or bad, for Poile’s managing expertise.


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