Going into the All-Star break, the biggest question for Predator fans might have been whether their captain, Shea Weber, could topple Zdeno Chara in the hardest shot competition (he didn’t). That was all before Ryan Suter stepped up to the podium and spoke.
Firstly, let’s get Suter’s quotes out there again, as he made them to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun:
“I feel it would be more of a distraction than anything,” Suter said of signing now. “We’ve never had a timeline or deadline. We’re just focusing on winning. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Just to be perfectly clear, ESPN.com asked Suter again, was he saying he won’t sign before the trade deadline?
“I don’t see it being a benefit by hurrying up and trying to get something done,” Suter confirmed. “I’m a Nashville Predator until July. I will focus on making my team better.”
LeBrun also had the following to say in the article:
Suter has communicated to Poile a desire to see the GM improve the team before the trade deadline, and Poile is trying to do just that ahead of Feb. 27.
Would that be enough for Suter to sign after the season?
“We have a lot of good players in our room,” Suter said. “Not saying you gotta go out and get a big-name guy — just the right piece.
“I want [to] help our team win the Stanley Cup and being in a place that we can go get more players and the pieces we need to help us win,” Suter added.
Those quotes all focus on the desire to improve the current Predators roster and make every effort to win the Stanley Cup this season.
Funny thing is that’s not the first impression from players within the League or media members across the League. Their questions all tend to paint the Predators as a team either unwilling or unable to pay Ryan Suter (and eventually Shea Weber) what he would command and truly make every effort to contend for the Stanley Cup.
Look at comments by former Predators captain Kimmo Timonen via ESPN.com’s Craig Custance:
“It’s not easy,” Timonen said. “I’m sure these two guys want to stay in Nashville. I wanted to stay in Nashville, too. Sometimes it comes to money and business and that side of things. I’m sure these guys are talking to the team and trying to see, ‘Is there any way we can work this thing out?’ If not, then you have to move on. It’s a bad part of the business but it has to happen.”
Would you like to see the doubt expressed by the Predators current captain, Shea Weber, via LeBrun?
“I think that’s the hardest part, you look at the past and seeing guys go through your team like Forsberg, Timonen, Hartnell — you go down the list, all you see is guys leaving,” Weber said. “You want to believe him [Poile], they’ve got the right things in mind. If they say they’re going to do it [increase payroll], then they should do it and we’ve got to trust them.”
How about an Eastern Conference GM? Do you think they are convinced that the Predators will be able to compete at an elite level financially? Look at this comment in Frank Seravalli’s blog today:
“The consensus among us is that Nashville will be hanging onto him, even if they know the odds are not in their favor of re-signing him,” one Eastern Conference GM told the Daily News on condition of anonymity. “If he does decide to trade him, [David] Poile has the market cornered. There are very few defensemen of Suter’s caliber in the league and Nashville has two of them.
“You have to wonder whether the Predators can continue to trade away their top players for prospects because they can’t afford to pay them.”
How is David Poile supposed to combat that? This is what he told LeBrun:
“That’s the conversation we’ve been having,” Poile told ESPN.com via phone Friday, a few hours before Suter broke his news. “Those days are past. We have new ownership in place. They’ve made a commitment to me and the players and both Ryan and Shea know that, because of the dollars they’re going to be getting and what we need to do to win that Cup, we’ll be spending what is necessary to contend.”
“I know we’re one of the lowest payrolls this year, but going forward that will no longer be the case,” stressed Poile.
And while Poile doesn’t have to worry about convincing us in the media, it’s plainly obvious that he still has a lot of convincing to do with both Suter and Weber. It’s also quite clear from the comments of Suter, Weber, and Timonen that players take note of teams constantly letting their core players go to market.
David Poile is correct in that Nashville has new ownership. That ownership group has done truly remarkable things since they bought the team. One thing they’ve never done however is spend beyond the midpoint of the cap. They also aren’t noted as having the deepest pockets among other owners across the League.
Now, Poile and the ownership group have to convince two of their cornerstones that they have the money to sign both of them- that’s the easy part. More importantly they have to convince those two cornerstones that they have the money to do what it takes to put the Predators in the best possible position, year after year, to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Ryan Suter is trying to tell David Poile and the ownership group that starts with this year’s trade deadline. If the reports that David Poile has no intention to trade Suter are correct, then he’s starting to understand that trading Ryan Suter prior to the deadline does more to set back this franchise beyond losing one of the top defenseman in the League. It’s stating a message to every player that Nashville can’t do what it takes to make players believe in Nashville as a team on which they have every chance to win a Cup. That’s why it would be a mistake to trade Suter.
If Suter walks, he walks. Get what you can at the draft and move on. Winning teams do what’s necessary to replace the missing pieces. Look no further than Pittsburgh and Detroit after Marian Hossa left. The mentality of worrying too much about players leaving is what the non-contenders do.
David Poile has to stop selling hope and words. Now he actually needs to start showing commitment.
You are invited to follow me on Twitter (@SingletonPreds). For game recaps of all Predators games as well as great insights on the Predators and the NHL, check out my HockeyIndependent colleague, Mark Willoughby (@TheViewFrom111).
About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.