137808268OTTAWA -- The pressure is on Nashville Predators' General Manager David Poile.
He has two cornerstone defensemen -- Ryan Suter, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and Shea Weber, who can become a restricted free agent. Neither will sign a contract extension before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
Instead they will wait to see if Poile can add to the roster for a playoff run, and they will reevaluate the situation after the season.
"I don't see it being a benefit at all by hurrying up and trying to get something done," Suter said Friday at the NHL All-Star Game's Media Day. "As far as I see it, I'm a Nashville Predator until July, and I'm going to focus on just making our team better, and hopefully we can win."
Suter said he did not want to be a distraction. Weber seemed glad Suter had said it.
"We talk a lot," Weber said. "Maybe it was just that pressure was weighing on him so much that he just wanted to move past it, and now that he's got it out there, I think it's said and now he can move forward."
Poile has not promised Suter that he won't be traded himself. Unless the Predators stumble or are offered a huge return, trading Suter seems unlikely at this point. It's more likely he goes for it and trades Suter's rights before July 1 if he can't sign him.
The Predators entered the All-Star break on a 9-1-0 run and are in the thick of the Central Division and Western Conference races. With 64 points, they are third in the Central but only three points out of No. 1 in the NHL.
This is a franchise that needs to show a commitment to winning -- to its players and fans -- and advance as far as it can, having won a playoff round for the first time last season. When ownership was unstable, players came and went. With more stable ownership, Poile was a buyer last season, picking up center Mike Fisher before the deadline. He signed goaltender Pekke Rinne to a seven-year, $49 million deal earlier this season.
The Predators need to keep proving themselves. Weber named some of the players who had left in the past -- Kimmo Timonen, Peter Forsberg, Scott Hartnell.
"You go down the list," Weber said. "All you see is guys leaving. You want to believe them. Obviously they've got the right things in mind, and if they say they're going to do it, then they should do it. We've got to trust them."
Suter said Poile pulls him aside and gives him an update every couple of weeks. "From talking with David," he said, "I feel pretty confident that we're going to go out and get some guys to help us win. "
What do the Preds need?
"I think we have a lot of good players in our room," Suter said. "I'm not saying you've got to go out and get a big-name guy or things like that. Just the right piece. You don't want to bring someone in that's not going to help you win. So I think the biggest thing is the right piece, and hopefully we're in a position where we can go and get that piece."
Weber cut off his negotiations Jan. 1. He is playing on a one-year, $7.5 million deal he was awarded in arbitration.
"I dealt with enough stress and pressure during the summer going through arbitration and the negotiations there, so right away just put it on the backburner," Weber said. "I'm still there for another year at least. We can use the summer and the next year to try to get something done."
Timonen talked to both of his former teammates Thursday and Friday. Even though he plays for the Philadelphia Flyers -- one of Suter's rumored suitors -- he doesn't want to see them broken up.
"Hopefully they can keep both those guys," Timonen said, "because they're the backbone."