Ryan Suter took a stand last week.
The Minnesota Wild defenseman was asked by Craig Custance of ESPN The Magazine about the NHL's owners negotiating in bad faith, given the contracts they handed out and the reduction of the players' share of revenues for which they're asking.
Suter believed the owners were, in fact, negotiating in bad faith — and targeted his new owner Craig Leipold in the process:
"It's disappointing. If you can't afford to (sign contracts) then you shouldn't do it," Suter said. "(Leipold) signed us to contracts. At the time he said everything was fine. Yeah, it's disappointing. A couple months before, everything is fine, and now they want to take money out of our contracts that we already signed."
Whammy! Great stuff from Suter, who was one of the only NHLPA members bold enough to take on the person signing his checks.
Oh, wait, he totally backtracked less than 48 hours later, didn't he?
Michael Russo of the Star Tribune spoke with Suter at a Defending the Blue Line charity event at Mariucci Arena, and the former Nashville Predators D-man moonwalked his previous answer back a few miles.
For example: Does he think Leipold gave him a contract knowing that the salary would eventually be reduced? Said Suter:
"No, I honestly don't feel that. It's easy to think that or it might come off like that, but honestly, I know they're good people. And I know they wouldn't negotiate thinking, 'OK, let's give them this because it'll end up being this.' Because that's not the kind of the people they are. So that came off wrong [in Suter's original comments to ESPN the Magazine]."
No, NHL owners never hand out contracts that aren't paid to their full value save for every contract they've handed out since the last lockout (oh hi escrow).
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In Suter's defense, there was a palpable backlash against his initial comments because if Leipold was negotiating with a work stoppage in mind, then Suter and Zach Parise were doing the same by asking for $25 million in bonus money over the first three years of their 13-year deals.
From Russo, Suter agreed that both players were aware of the lockout risk:
"Yeah. Yeah. There definitely was. Whenever the CBA's up, after last time what happened, we wanted to protect ourselves, so yeah, there was risk. We both knew that. Just moving forward, I don't want to get into a battle about that. I don't want to be a posterboy. I'm just trying to be honest with you. I don't question Craig. I don't feel like it was negotiated unfaithfully or untruthfully."
Having talked to Suter before, he's a humble guy. There's a reason the Detroit Red Wings had to fly to a farm to court him last summer. The "posterboy" comment speaks louder about why he's walking back his rancor than anything else — Suter found himself on an island, one of the only NHLPA members to actually question his own ownership rather than laying the blame solely on Gary Bettman.
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He doesn't like speaking out of turn, and it's not the first time he's danced back from a comment. Remember the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa, when Suter revealed he would be going to July 1?
"I'm a Nashville Predator until July. I will focus on making my team better."
"I was watching TV this morning and one guy said I was definitely going to test the open market," Suter told ESPN.com. "I never said that. So I just want people to know that I'm focused on helping our team win and I think that's the most important thing right now."
That said: C'mon man, show a little spine.
"Craig" deserves every question he gets about handing out two massive contracts while knowing the NHL would ask for a dramatic decrease in players' share in Year 1, and every question he gets for handing out those deals months after claiming that player salaries are the main reason his team isn't profitable.
Suter bit the hand that fed him and didn't like the aftertaste.