The notion that Ryan Suter could become an unrestricted free agent must make anyone that handed out a 10-year contract to Christian Ehrhoff furious. Here's an all-star, minutes-hording defensive stalwart who'd be considered a franchise defenseman were it not for playing in the shadow of Shea Weber's beard. They don't come around often at 27 years old.
So there's going to be heightened attention given to Suter over the next two weeks, as he allows the frustration of the Preds' loss to Phoenix subside and begins sussing out his future with David Poile.
"I haven't really had time to sit back and talk with my family and figure out what we want to do. This morning I had a meeting with David (Poile) and we talked about everything and the future, and how everything will go, and I think we're going to meet again in a couple of weeks and kind of make a decision."
… "Wherever I sign I want to be there for the rest of my career , and that affects my family, my wife, my kid, if we have more kids, everything plays into it."
Cynically, one might read this as "I'll let Poile know where they should trade my UFA negotiating rights." It becomes even more cynical when you read this in The Province, in a wishful thinking post about Shea Weber coming to the Vancouver Canucks, on Suter:
"Those around his situation claim he has a list of teams he wants to play for and Nashville isn't on it."
So are we ready to write off Suter as a Predator or is there still a chance he'll finish his career in Smashville?
If it's about wins and losses, the Predators have as good a case to make as any. Pekka Rinne is signed long term. Poile is among the League's top GMs, and ditto Barry Trotz as a coach. With ownership having been aggressive in adding some pricy talent in the last two seasons, it's clear that the Predators are no longer content with making the playoffs and instead want to advance.
If Suter goes to the Detroit Red Wings, does he have a better chance to win a Stanley Cup than in Nashville? Considering the miles on that franchise's top talent, it might be a wash.
In Nashville, the Predators have done a good job of erasing all the other concerns from the equation. It's a great place to play hockey, with a passionate, growing fanbase. There's now stability with an ownership that has been very public in its willingness to spend and backed it up with the huge contract given to Pekka Rinne. Despite the shortcomings this spring, GM David Poile and coach Barry Trotz remain one of the most respected duos in the game. If Poile retires anytime soon, the Predators have arguably the best assistant GM in the game in Paul Fenton ready to take over.
For Suter, it could be as simple as deciding if that combination of factors is enough to equal a consistent chance at a Stanley Cup for the next decade.
One more factor: Even if they did bring back Suter and Weber at their expected asking prices, they still might not be hamstrung against the cap.
I'd count the Predators among the top suitors for Suter, along with the Red Wings (depending on how their run at Zach Parise turns out), the open-checkbook Carolina Hurricanes (ditto), the Minnesota Wild (near Suter's native Madison, WI, but might have some cap concerns) and the Philadelphia Flyers (who covet him but would need to cut salary for him).
He's going to have long-term contracts with a high price tag thrown at him if he hits the market. But as he makes this decision, and considers the future for his family, we think back to his words at the All-Star Game when trade winds were swirling:
"Nashville is a great place to live and raise a family."