Before I get started here, I should probably warn you in advance that I don’t have a great plan for how I’m going to structure this particular blog entry. Typically, I like to frame my thoughts into some sort of outline before I commit them to page(or screen, as it were). With so much going on, and my thoughts so scattered and spread out amongst the myriad of Predator-centric interests, the best I can pledge is a sort of stream of consciousness. For those that follow me on Twitter (Do you? No? Well, you should! @PredsOddManRush /shamelessplug), a lot of these musings won’t really be new to you. While I’m notoriously lackadaisical when it comes to actually taking the time to sit down and blog, I do tweet pretty much every genius\idiotic thought that comes into my head.
The following is more or less a distillation of the past 24 hours of those thoughts. Fair warning, I anticipate a long post. YOU WERE WARNED.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with the Madison-born elephant in the room, Ryan Suter. I’ve long maintained that of the “big three,” Suter was the hardest to get a read on. Stoic in word and action, on the ice and off, his intentions have always been something of a mystery to me. While he’s always SAID the right thing (“I love Nashville, I want to stay, blah blah blah,”) we nonetheless find ourselves entrenched in a bitter bidding war to retain his services. Poile, Suter’s agent Neil Sheehy, and most of the usual pundits can agree on one thing: Suter is going to get paid, no matter where he goes. To that effect, Josh Cooper verified that Poile and co. have kept their part of the bargain and made an offer that’s competitive with the field, one that would be one of the richest in NHL history. Wouldn’t it stand to reason then, that Suter’s name should already to be to Nashville paper?
Well, if you take everything he’s ever said at face value, sure. Unfortunately, the world of professional sports isn’t so transparent. There are a lot of moving pieces beneath the surface, and it’s impossible to really know what motivates Ryan Suter. Given that he’s going to be a very wealthy Sean Astin lookalike regardless of where he goes, it has to be something else. Proximity to family? Escaping Shea Weber’s bearded shadow? Desire to win? The answer may very well be a simple “yes.” None of it really matters though, it simply boils down to a binary “Suter stay” or “Suter go.” Joe Strummer philosophies aside, the longer that question lingers, the more hamstrung the franchise is. If there is one bit of good luck, it’s that replacing Suter was almost always going to be an endeavor best fufilled via trade. Matt Carle is really the only other available option, and he’s likely going to be exquisitely overpaid by whomever misses out on Suter. My guess is that it’s Philadelphia, whom I feel has only a slight chance at Suter. Carle wanted to stay, they wanted to keep him, but not before they threw their hat in the Suter ring. With Carle reportedly holding off until Suter signs, the fit seems to be there. No doubt David Poile will have interest, but it may again come down to the free market and free will winning out, and we could again be left to ponder our “always a bridesmaid” lot in life. Which again brings us back to trade. Paul Martin, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle — all names rumored available for the right price. There’s a particular direction I’d go, but more on that a bit later. The point remains that the Nashville Predators can’t really move forward until Suter makes a decision. Fortunately, Poile seems to share that “fish or cut bait” mentality. I expect that once Suter makes a decision, a lot of dominoes will begin to topple. Similarly, the forward market will experience a chain reaction when Zach Parise commits to a team. Quick note on that to interject– I’m tickled pink that we made an offer on that one, and it’s certainly a good sign when it comes to our ownership group, but that one isn’t happening. Sorry– it’s just not. Maybe if Suter was already signed, Weber re-signing was imminent– maybe then, but with so much up in the air, he’s not coming here, but I digress. The market is at a standstill until these two guys make their decision, at which point I think you’ll see a rash of signings and tertiary trades. I’d love to have Ryan Suter back, and continue to ice the best defensive pairing in the league, but I’m sick of the waiting, and it seems that David Poile is as well.
I mentioned earlier that trade is likely going to be the best option when it comes to replacing Ryan Suter. I should qualify the word “replace,” as I realize that replacing an elite defenseman isn’t something that’s easily done. However, I think there are a couple of guys that could at least ease the loss, somewhat. Josh Cooper has referenced two names in particular repeatedly: Jay Bouwmeester(Calgary) and Paul Martin(Pittsburgh). Both are rumored available, both would be considerably cheaper than Suter, and both are capable of first pairing minutes– which isn’t true of anyone else in the Preds’ system, at this time.
Here’s my take on both:
Paul Martin- 3 years remaining at 5M cap hit, 31 years old
I’m not a huge Paul Martin fan, but he’s essentially a poor man’s Ryan Suter. He played well enough to price himself out of New Jersey, but has taken some steps back and disappointed in Pittsburgh’s more offense-oriented system. Would a return to a format similar to the one he excelled with in NJ be beneficial? Maybe. I had initially thought Pittsburgh was only looking to move him if they landed Suter, but informally polling their writers, it seems as if they’re looking to move him regardless. As such, I wouldn’t expect the trade pricetag to be high.
Jay Bouwmeester – 2 years remaining at 6.6M cap hit, 28 years old
Chris “@predatweeter” Burton and I love to bicker about this guy (Chris has coined the name “Blowmeester”), but he’s definitely my top choice. While he’s more expensive, he’s also young enough to still be considered in the prime of his career. At 6’4, he’s huge, and plays both ends of the ice with equal prowess. He moves the puck well, has a nice physical streak, and is effective in all situations. Additionally, if this sort of thing matters, he’s a western Canada boy that has played in a couple of international tournaments with Shea Weber. While some would point out the “Bouwmeester curse”(he’s never been on a playoff team), I’d like to point out that he moved from one clown franchise to another, and I have a hard time pinning the struggles on him. He’s essentially always been a good defenseman on a bad team, which I prefer to Martin’s “bad defenseman on a good team.” While his contract is on the hefty side, it’s on par for a top pairing defenseman, especially one that still has several good years ahead. In fact, before today is over, it may even seem like a bargain. Best of all– with Jay “Crazy Larry” Feaster backing the Brinks truck up to Dennis Wideman’s door, Bouwmeester’s available as well– and with his contract being somewhat heavy, the asking price isn’t rumored to be all that high.
So, assuming Suter takes his talents to the South Beach of Lake Minnetonka, here’s what I would do:
-Trade Jon Blum, Matt Halischuk and 3rd to Calgary for Bouwmeester
-Do whatever you can to get Bobby Ryan from Anaheim. Failing that, trade or sign for the best top six forward you can get your hands on.
-Make Ryan Suter’s title of “Most Ridiculously Paid Defenseman in Universe” a short one, and make Shea Weber obscenely wealthy.
So that’s what *I* would do, but the keys are in David Poile’s Oldsmobile, so to speak.
Now that I’ve said my piece about Ryan Suter, there are a few things to be said about Shea Weber.
I’m a little(a lot) nervous, watching the Suter circus unfold. If teams are clawing each other’s eyes out to sign an elite defenseman to a record breaking contract, what will they offer to a generational talent like Shea Weber? I fear that question may be marinating in the heads of our captain and his agent right now. Poile has expressed a desire to get Weber locked up as soon as possible, but that’s been the plan for two years now. If it were up to me, I would essentially issue a blank check, but of course it’s not. Either way, I think Weber’s future in Nashville needs to be decided before the season begins. If he signs long-term– great. I don’t think any amount of money would be “too much.” However, if he shows any hesitance– any desire for only a 1 year deal, there can be no “we’ll use a busy trade deadline to win him over.” He needs to be traded THIS summer, and the pricetag needs to be ABSURD. If I’m Poile, I start the bidding at a young(<24) top four defenseman, TWO young top six forwards, and high picks. Losing Suter means a retool, provided you handle it properly. Losing Weber essentially signifies a full rebuild, and the onus is on David Poile to do it the right way. The Penguins made the right call when Jordan Staal wouldn’t commit beyond this season, and the Predators need to make a similar plan for Weber. His value is at its highest, this summer. Priority one should be to sign him to a lifelong deal, while they’re still allowed by the expiring CBA. Barring that, he needs to be liquidated into the components of the new-look Predators.
This leads me to my last(I promise! Sorry!) major point. David Poile.
Poile may be the most polarizing figure outside of Barry Trotz, at the moment. While on paper, Poile has done more with less than any GM in the league, but the “woe is me” small market, small budget excuses are apparently out the window. He himself confirms a cap ceiling budget, so money isn’t the issue any longer. I realize that players are autonomous beings, and that they are ultimately the ones that have to put pen to paper, but my tolerance thins a bit when a pattern emerges. Why are we seemingly the only team that can’t get our young talent to commit, long-term? We’re consistently competitive, we offer a lot of amenities for a reasonable price, as a city…so what’s the problem? Even Rick Nash signed a monster deal with the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets, even if he did later change his mind. Keith Yandle signed below market on a 5 year deal to stay with the always-at-risk Phoenix Coyotes– so why is this problem so uniquely Nashville? Fair or not, at some point, the front office has to be accountable for these failures. Poile’s mishandling of the Scott Stevens situation in Washington (Google if you’re not familiar, it’s an interesting read) left a sour taste in the mouths of fans that persists to this day. Will GMDP’s legacy be similarly characterized in Nashville? A consistent GM that always ices a competitive team, but can’t get over the top and watches high-end talent walk away? I think a good litmus test can be found in Anaheim. Watch what happens over the next year. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are both UFA next summer, and both stand to make a Suter-ian fortune on the open market. Now, the Ducks have struggled the last few seasons. If Bob Murray can get these two stars locked up, in spite of that– something starts to really stink in Nashville, if Weber and Suter do in fact move on. If they don’t re-sign, then maybe it’s just an epidemic of “grass is greener” mentalities, but I’ll be curious to see how it plays out.
Now, I don’t want to seem unappreciative of all that David Poile has done for this franchise. I am cognizant of the fact that we’d likely be the Hamilton Blackberries, if not for his inability to string chicken salad from chicken crap. However, I think that there comes a point when past merits have to be weighed against future goals. We’ve managed to keep it together, despite various players moving on from Nashville. We’ve always found a way to replace them. However, we’ve never lost players the caliber of Suter and Weber, and certainly not in consecutive years. You’re kidding yourself if you think that we’ll be able to absorb such a loss without skipping a beat. Suter and Weber(and Rinne) are a good reason that losing names like Timonen, Hartnell, Kariya, etc weren’t a killing blow. Take those two out, and it’s a different story, in my opinion.
Finally– Jordin Tootoo. I’m not going to waste a lot of words. Anyone that knows me is aware that I wasn’t a huge fan, at least not in the last few seasons. I think he can be an effective player when he recognizes his assets as an agitator, but there seemed to be some delusions of grandeur as a “budding top six forward” in the last season or two. Off the ice, he’s a charismatic guy that seems to enjoy the spotlight. He won a lot of people over with that, but to others it came off as hot dogging and cockiness. I am proud of the demons that he’s overcome, and he will live on in some fun memories for me, but overall, I won’t miss him, and I don’t think the team as a whole will either. Gabriel Bourque fills that energy role with a considerable amount more “hockey contribution” than Toots provided.
But jeez, talk about trolling two fanbases. The Red Wings? Really?
Alright, that’s enough out of me. In the nearly two hours it took to write this, I was certain that Suter and Parise were going to sign and make it all worthless, but as of the time that I’m about to click the “publish” button, that still hasn’t happened. Time to get this off to presses while it might still be relevant.
Off to click “refresh” like a mad-man, for the next few hours.