At this point in their courtship, Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter is holding a note that says "Do you want to go steady?" with two boxes labeled "YES" and "NO." GM David Poile, who handed him the note, can only wait to see where the checkmark falls.
Suter is the best unrestricted free agent defenseman on the market this summer, and it's a market he'll test. That doesn't mean he won't return to the Predators. But it does mean he'll hit the open market, which would seem to negate any NHL team trading for his negotiating rights from the Nashville, which has been one of Poile's constant summer moves in these situations.
As I wrote six months ago, the Predators' leverage in this situation has dwindled away over the course of time, and is now almost entirely gone. Perhaps they can trade his rights to a team which covets some one-on-one time enough to part with a draft pick over the next few days, but again, given his apparent intent to hit the market on July 1 (and why wouldn't he?), that doesn't even make much sense.
But there's another reason Poile may not want to deal Suter, which is the fact that there's a finality to that move and Suter hasn't indicated he won't be coming back to Nashville.
"Absolutely not, and that's the good news," said Poile to 102.5's Sports Revolution (via OTF) on Friday. "The bad news is that he hasn't said 'let's get something done.' As we get closer to July 1, it seems like more and more he's going to want to test free agency and see what other teams are offering him, what they have to say to them."
"If that's the case, then I have to hope and believe from everything that they said to me that he's going to come back to us and say 'this is where we're at.' Hopefully we're able to work out a deal. I hope that's the case," said Poile.
"It's obviously a nervous situation because it's in his right to sign with anybody."
It's also a nervous situation because Poile is stuck waiting to hear an answer while the rest of the NHL is making their player moves.
"The problem with Plan B right now is that a lot of the players that are available, and [are] options that I might have, might disappear," he said.
That includes players for the Predators, who have a veteran like Hal Gill no doubt waiting to see if Suter returns to a defense that currently has Ryan Ellis, Kevin Klein and Roman Josi under contract (with Shea Weber as an RFA).
You have to wonder what Poile should do in this situation. On Friday, when asked about trading Suter's rights, Poile stressed that he wanted to stay 'loyal' to Suter during the process. Poile also indicated that Suter would probably come back and talk to Nashville after he looks at the market. In his heart of hearts, Poile believes this is the right place for Suter. It's the right market size, the right type of lifestyle and gives him the type of anonymity he craves. Also, with Suter and Shea Weber running the leadership group, the Predators have had the most successful two year run in franchise history. Right now, Nashville probably fits him better than Detroit and Minnesota — as all three teams are currently constructed on this day.
But what if the Los Angeles Kings decide to come in with an offer on Suter — not that we know anything on this but just a 'what if' scenario — and gives him a chance to play with the Stanley Cup champs, a team that will likely bring back pretty much everyone with a core group that's just hitting its prime. What would he say?
Well, the first thing he'd say is, "You know I don't play left wing? Because that's the area it seems like you need to upgrade?"
But after that, who knows? The bottom line is that it appears Suter is committed to having these conversations on July 1, and all David Poile can do is hope that he's given one last shot to win him over.