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The Nashville Predators are currently fifth in the ever-changing Western Conference standings, three points from the lead in their division and nine points away from the playoff bubble.
At this point, it's assumed the Preds will be a playoff team; which means it's assumed Ryan Suter will finish the season in Nashville despite his impending free agency.
That was the conclusion Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports came to in his piece on Suter, in which the standout defenseman declared he wouldn't sign a new deal before the trade deadline. It's a conclusion seconded by a source to Frank Seravalli of Frequent Flyers as well:
"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."
Therein lies the rub for the Preds.
If GM David Poile deals Suter at the deadline before losing him in the summer, then the return is likely higher than trading his rights before free agency. Yet as Seravalli notes, trading Suter before the deadline would also send a mixed signal to fans on what kind of playoff team the Predators can be this postseason.
There hasn't been an unrestricted free agent of Suter's caliber to his the market in quite some time — if he does hit the market. We're talking Jay Bouwmeester and Brian Campbell numbers if he goes UFA.
The Predators want him back, using Pekka Rinne's recent monster contract as an act of good faith. Poile told ESPN that "I know we're one of the lowest payrolls this year, but going forward that will no longer be the case."
This all may come down to where Ryan Suter wants to play, rather than the dollars he'll play for.