The Contract Bachelor: Introducing Suter’s Suitors

On Friday, after many speculations the Predators General Manager David Poile announced that defenseman Ryan Suter would likely be testing the free agency market. Suter becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

It is a rare and interesting occasion when an all-star player such as Suter has an opportunity to really choose exactly where they want to go. In all honesty, every team could benefit from the stellar play of Suter, who posted career highs in goals (7), assists (39), and points (46) this season. Along with defensive partner Shea Weber, Nashville fans have been treated to arguably the best defensive pairing in the sport.

But there are certain parameters that a player must look at before making such a monumental decision. Judging by the comments made by Suter as well as Poile, there are several items on Suter’s non-negotiable list. He wants a long-term contract (with proper pay, of course) in a place where he can raise a family with his wife. He also desires a place where his privacy will be respected as well, so he can be normal. He also wants a team that can also win the Stanley Cup.

It’s like… well, like getting married. You want to make sure it’s “the one.” Make sure they have all of the necessary assets for unconditional love. So Ryan Suter is the bachelor who wants to marry a team. And he has plenty of suitors to talk to, get to know, and listen to him.

But who gets the ring?

On this season of Suter’s Suitors:

Who leaves the first few episodes:

Columbus:  After a very disastrous freak accident, they don’t even make it to the table. Conspiracy theory? Probably not.

Los Angeles, New York (Rangers), New Jersey:  David Poile has already mentioned that he is almost certain that Suter will not go to either of these markets, mainly because of the media attention and city lifestyle. I threw in New Jersey because they are part of the New York network. Particularly with LA winning its first Stanley Cup ever and all the media asking what went wrong with the Rangers, Suter would basically be running into some sort of fire. While I foam at the mouth for a rights trade between Suter and Parise, it just seems unlikely.

The Canadian Teams: Whilst all of the teams could definitely use the defense (I’m looking at you, Toronto), as much as I regret saying this, no one can deny that hockey really is Canada’s sport. The guys who play in Canada are treated like celebrities. All seven teams face scrutiny every day. Even though Uncle Gary Suter had a successful run with Calgary many years ago (including the Stanley Cup with Coach Crispy in 1989), it’s unlikely Ryan will follow in his footsteps in Canada. (But don’t be surprised if Vancouver is calling Weber trying to get the BC native to the dark side, but that’s a spin-off waiting to happen.)

The “other” teams: Over the past few years, there has been a significant gap between the teams that do and do not make the playoffs. There are several parameters that Suter may have to watch out for: inconsistency, cap issues, different styles of play where he may not flourish.  He also may find teams where he’d be under scrutiny solely because the team wants him to be the solution, when, clearly, it’s a sport with many needs.

Who goes under the radar?

Dallas Stars: In the first of the 2011-2012 season, the Dallas Stars were the biggest surprise. Even with the lowest cap of any team, the team was atop the Western Conference the first part of the season. But, alas, the team had a collapse similar to 2011, dropping out of the playoffs in the final games. There are many reasons that Suter could possibly consider Dallas. They have the cap room and have a good depth team with major potential. They’re also a big team that where a stay-at-home defenseman would fit in perfectly. The atmosphere outside of the arena is similar to Nashville—laid back, country, and conservative.

Minnesota Wild:  Only a few hundred miles from Suter’s Wisconsin farm, geographically it makes sense. However, hockey-wise, it may not. With a team who traded off former Preds Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon, the team is trying to find all sorts of holes to fill. Again, like Dallas, it seemed they were going to be a team to be reckoned with the first half of the season, but collapsed to the basement soon after. Stylistically, it is another defensive-minded, stay-at-home team. However, Minnesota has not been to the playoffs since 2008, and have lost many of their superstars over the past years, such as Marian Gaborik and Martin Havlat.

The annoying ones that everyone hates, but, of course, never leaves the show:

Detroit: Immediately after Niklas Lidstrom announced his retirement, people all over the NHL twitterverse were talking about “Suter to Detroit.” Even analysts on NHL Network have said that both Suter and Weber could find themselves in Detroit with the Cup room. No Predators fan wants to hear that, especially with the history with Detroit. The silver lining for Suter would be that Pavel Datsyuk can’t own him except in practice. But Sutes… just a fair warning: many Blackhawks fans still haven’t forgiven Chris Chelios for going to Detroit. What makes you think Nashville will? The stigmas of Paul Kariya and Alex Radulov circa 2008 would be placed upon the Suter name.

Chicago: Another team that has pawned off defense over the past few seasons, Chicago is trying to find that 2010 team again. After losing all but 9 players from that Cup-winning team, General Manager Stan Bowman may be trying to show Suter a mapquest printout to show him how close he is to Wisconsin. However, the team is struggling to keep under cap, which keeps them out of the main conversation. Still, who doesn’t want to see a catfight between Chicago and Detroit over a 27-year old?

The on-again-off-again relationship who wants him back: Nashville

All biases aside, Nashville really is a good fit for Suter. Even Poile is frustrated because the fit just seems so right. Every parameter that Nashville has fits the Suter list of “musts,” except maybe if he wants some snow. He’s seen in the franchise as (per the season slogan) a “hero.” He’s a Nashville-drafted boy who shows (along with Weber) the pure genius of the development in Nashville. It’s also a private area where people aren’t seen as celebrities and everyone is laid back. Not to mention the pretty little contract he gets would be income-tax free. If he did decide to stay with Nashville, the fans would conveniently see past his poor judgment to test the free market and welcome back with open arms (See: Radulov forgiveness). That being said, this could be one of the first major blows for Nashville: a player finally saying “I don’t want to play here anymore.” But what went wrong? Not enough money? Feeling abused? Neglected?

But what about the Bromance?

But, of course, there must be another conflict or else everyone will get bored! Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have rarely been separated since the 2006-2007 season when they started full-time. They are not only one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL, but they are also best friends. They could make Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews jealous. Many are curious if the bromance will prevail or if, for the first time in their NHL career, the bromance goes long distance. Does Suter’s decision affect Weber’s signing? Does Weber’s decision (if it happens before Suter’s) affect Suter’s? Can any team, including Nashville, afford both? Although no one wants to really hear it, they can survive without each other. They had to in the 2010 Olympics, after all. But it wasn’t Suter who passed Weber the last-minute tying goal in game 5 of the Predators/Ducks conference quarterfinals series in 2011—it was Cody Franson.

Of course, this is all speculation. There is no hidden source that lives in a Norwegian tee-pee sending telegrams in Klingon Morse Code to the Nation. But Preds fan: expect a long, drawn out, melodramatic few weeks.

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