Members of the Hockey Independent crew have come together again for another series of offseason articles for your reading pleasure. The contributing authors to today’s piece will be Cris Cohen (New York Rangers), Seth Levin (New Jersey Devils), Alex Muscat (Detroit Red Wings) and myself, Benjamin Woodward (Boston Bruins). Each of us have taken on the role of armchair general manager for the sake of this feature. Over the next couple of weeks, leading into the July 1 opening of free agency, we will take a look at some of the players that are either set to hit the open market or have been rumored to be available via trade. Each member of the HI roundtable will propose a deal for the player that he/she believes to be reasonable for both squads.
Today’s discussion is centered around Nashville Predators’ defenseman Ryan Suter.
Ryan Suter (D) — Nashville Predators — Age: 27 — Career: 38 Goals, 200 Assists, +43
Seth Levin (@levinakl) – Nashville Predators — 10 Years, $70 Million ($7.000 AAV)
– I expect the Ryan Suter derby to come down to the Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators. To separate some of the field, I think if it comes down solely to dollars and cents, I expect the Wild to offer the most money, but I’m not sure Suter will be married to the highest offer. while I expect the Penguins’ offer to be lower, they will try to sell the opportunity of playing alongside stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang (amongst others). I can’t speak for what type of appeal that would have to Suter, but the rumor mill remains strong he would prefer to stay in the Western Conference, which would eliminate the likes of the Penguins, as well as teams like the Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers that always seem to be amongst the suitors for the high priced free agents.
Ultimately, I expect Suter’s decision to come down to the Red Wings and the Predators. The downside to the Red Wings is being subject to the burden of trying to fill the shoes of a legend, as Red Wings great Nicklas Lidstrom retired this month, leaving a major void for the Red Wings on the backline. While Detroit definitely has significant interest in Suter, does Suter want to subject himself to the pressure of trying to replace Lidstrom?
My guess is similar to Zach Parise, I expect Suter to ultimately stay with his current team, the Nashville Predators, who will look to lockup both Suter and fellow star defenseman Shea Weber to long-term deals. I believe Suter enjoys playing in a secondary market and having Weber as his defensive partner. Assuming Weber is willing to sign long-term as well, I predict Suter to get an 10-year, $70 million contract with Nashville.
The two biggest potential hold ups in this happening are if Weber isn’t willing to sign long-term in Nashville or if his friend Parise signs in Detroit, that might entice him to come along too. Similar to my prediction with Parise, I do not expect Ryan Suter to sign before July 1st, but I do expect him to ultimately stay with the Predators.
Benjamin Woodward (@BWoodward_HI) – Philadelphia Flyers — 6 Years, $43 Million ($7.167 AAV)
– For about as long as I can remember, hockey pundits everywhere have suggested with almost 100% certainty that Ryan Suter would sign with the Detroit Red Wings this summer. While that very well could happen, I believe that Suter will instead choose to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers. As Seth described above, the pressure that comes with replacing a legend like Nicklas Lidstrom may be enough to drive Suter far away from the Motor City. In Philly, such a problem does not exist. Suter would have the chance to become the number one defenseman on a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
The Flyers have enough talent up front to compete with any team in the NHL. There’s simply no sense in trying to deny that. Between Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, and Wayne Simmonds (amongst others), the Philly offense is about as potent as they come. However, the Flyers’ weakness is without a doubt on the blueline, where their roster is filled with question marks.
Captain Chris Pronger‘s status remains in question after suffering a devastating concussion early last season. Matt Carle is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and may be looking to cash in on a big money contract of his own. Veteran Finn Kimmo Timonen will turn 38 midway through next season and its quite possible that he’ll see a decline in production and effectiveness as his career begins to wind down.
In Suter, Paul Holmgren secures long term stability on the Flyers’ blueline, in picking up a legitimate superstar defenseman to skate on his top pairing for the next 6-10 years.
Alex Muscat (@AlexMuscat73) – Detroit Red Wings — 8 Years, $53 Million ($6.625 AAV)
– It’s certain that the Detroit Red Wings won’t enter training camp with the blueline corp of Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart finding his way back to San Jose, the Red Wings need a true number one defenseman. This is where Ryan Suter fits in the Red Wings’ plans and it becomes a reality, he’ll be welcomed with open arms to the organization and fans.
Even if Zach Parise comes to the Motor City, there will still be plenty of cap room to ink Suter to a lucrative contract, which will likely be an eight year deal that is worth between $6-7 million per season. If the Red Wings do indeed sign Suter and if top prospect Brendan Smith makes the team out of training camp, their blueline issue will be solved. In 79 games with the Nashville Predators last season, Suter scored seven goals and added 39 assists, with a plus/minus rating of +15.
I’m playing Devil’s advocate here (and I’m not speaking about New Jersey), but if the Red Wings strike out swinging on Suter, the next best option would be Dennis Wideman of the Washington Capitals. In the end, I’ve a really good feeling that Ryan Suter will be wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey in the not-too distant future.
Cris Cohen (@cc_927) – Pittsburgh Penguins — 7 years, $60 Million ($8.571 AAV)
– Much like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter will have no shortage of suitors for his services this offseason. Unfortunately, unlike the Devils and Parise, I don’t expect the Predators to retain him.
The Penguins and Flyers, two teams for which defense was exposed as a major flaw in the playoffs will probably both make an aggressive push. Both teams are considered Cup contenders, but after playing all those seasons in front of Pekka Rinne, will playing in front of Marc-Andre Fleury or Ilya Bryzgalov seem as enticing?
The Detroit Red Wings will make an offer and are also perennial contenders, but does Suter want to commit long-term when quite a bit of its core (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Kronwall) are already on the other side of thirty?
Much as it pains me to say it, Suter will be in a Penguin uniform next year. Between him and Bryzgalov, Fleury is the less inconsistent of the two, and Suter in front can only help. Obviously if someone’s actually defending, the puck has fewer chances of getting to him and lowers the risk of potential mishaps. The overall makeup of the team gives Suter his best chance of winning, contingent on locking up Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby (and Crosby stays healthy) long-term. There’s not much reason to think they won’t. And if they manage to snag Parise as well? God help the Eastern Conference.
About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Contributor to the New England Hockey Journal. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.