Ryan Suter is no longer a Predator. He and his wife, will be applying their crafts in Minnesota. Shortly after, Zach Parise signed his deal landing both players in the Twin Cities for the next 13 years. While we can argue on how much hockey sense this made, landing both prized free agents is a move that will be remembered for a while. Both players are just now approaching their prime, and both play well on both sides of the ice. While it doesn’t make the Wild into the Miami Heat, it does make them a little scarier to the Canucks for their Northwest Division crown.
Before we dissect this further, OnTheForecheck writer Sam Page may have won the day with this gem.
Hell hath no fury like a team’s fanbase scorned.
There are quite a few things to take away from all of this. In yet another summer we’ll label as the most important in franchise history, Suter’s choice to go to Minnesota has forced the organization to make some bold choices, and speed up the timetable on their crop of prospects.
“Our focus turns to our captain Shea Weber” -D. Poile
It damn sure better. It’s about getting the big guy to sign long term, and no more of this crummy 3 year deal stuff. Its understandable why Poile and company haven’t been able to extend long term deals before, but what’s the worst fact of life when it comes to the business of the Predators is the lack of pro-activity. Signing Colin Wilson and Craig Smith to longer deals isn’t the worst idea. Why? A good talent under a longer contract usually makes for a cheaper contract, and an asset that’s easier to a trade. With Pekka Rinne locked up long-term, the Predators can at least be competitive. But with incredible talent like Weber, it’s only fair to him and the organization to either go for the elite, or go young and trade him if you can’t get a long term deal. His talent set is rare coupled with his size, and getting equal value will be tough unless a team like Edmonton is involved with a surplus of top end young forwards. With leads to the next factors of this situation…
Nashville is getting a reputation, deserved or not
Hamhuis left, and that wasn’t a shock. Last summer, Sullivan, Goc, and Ward left for bigger paydays (except Sully). This summer, Suter left for “family reasons”. Talent is being developed, and leaving. While it feels good with players like Gaustad and Gill sticking around, Nashville hasn’t landed a good sized catch since Paul Kariya (and Matt Lombardi, if you want to reach). Those two believe Nashville is close to a title, and largely that depends on Weber staying and the talent pool not being raided in a trade. Pekka Rinne staying is a major plus, and offsets the Suter departure. But if you were Shea, would you not be disappointed if the team didn’t improve the roster greatly to offset the loss of your long-time partner? Nashville didn’t lose Suter to money (allegedly), but the perception still remains from the Leipold era. (The same Leipold that owns the Wild, and was whining about losing money the last two years. Let that sink in for a minute.) If Nashville isn’t going to land these building blocks, they’ll need to be drafted. And about that…
The Predators haven’t been terrible in a long time.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that seems to be the only way to acquire ridiculous talent these days (or trading with the Leafs) without giving up the farm (like the Leafs). The Predators have some of the best scouts in the world, and have pulled gems out of the later round for the last few years. The franchise was grouped in a division with Detroit and St. Louis when they first entered the league, and only had ONE top five pick in their history, David Legwand. Since 2004, Chicago has had 3. Since 1984, Pittsburgh has picked inside the top 5 ELEVEN TIMES in 28 drafts. “If you’re not going going to be good, be terrible!” While no one is asking the team to be rotten, this is a fact of life- there aren’t many blue chippers, but instead several “safe prospects”. Their two stars, Rinne and Weber, were passed on by every team at least once. Top five picks don’t make a team an instant competitor, nor are they guaranteed to be anything special (all of Central Ohio agrees with that statement), but potential is king when it comes to trades. The traditional trade usually entails a swap of proven talent for more players with potential.
That said, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith seem to be on the right track. Austin Watson is coming around to be a top six forward. If a trade for Bobby Ryan doesn’t happen this year, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. Keeping Weber is the primary goal, and needs to be done. He’s big, he’s the most complete defenseman in the league, he’s the captain, and arguably one of the top 7-8 skaters in the league. The depth of the system is a group of safe forward prospects that will be decent NHL’ers, and smaller puck moving defensemen. Keeping Shea is paramount, and if it takes a swap with Calgary to get Jay Bouwmeester to get him a satisfactory partner to appease him, do it. Jay is at least durable, he hasn’t missed a game in years. And “Shea and Jay” sound pretty good. Keith Yandle won’t be cheap, but he’s better. It’s likely that the Coyotes’ needs may fit the Predators’ surplus better as well.
David Poile has to be aggressive, either way
From afar, some may mock the Blue Jackets for the asking price of their franchise player, Rick Nash. While Nash is also a top 12 player, his talent set isn’t the most rare. He’s a great player, and for hockey’s sake I hope he either stays and the Jackets get better, or he lands on a contender that isn’t based in Michigan. Still, both the Predators and the Rangers offered a king’s ransom for his services. And Columbus fans were cheated out of having a team lined with young talent. The Flyers will be the model for what Columbus could’ve been, in a matter of a few short years (lots of solid forward talent, inconsistent blueline, and sketchy goaltending, but competitive).
But what about Shea and the price he would command if he were to go to market? His skill set is far more rare. He’s the only player in the league that can start on every team, without debate. Think about that for a moment.
There are two options for Poile that would warrant the best return:
- Sign Shea Weber to a long term deal, and build around him and the tall Finn. This is likely the best option.
- Sign Shea Weber to a shorter deal, but longer than one year to make him viable to a trade. Then, accept an entire crop of prospects in return.
No one year deal. Period. That’s not an option at this point, unless Poile wants Pittsburgh model, and that’s not any form of a guarantee. Plus, fans are already ticked off that Suter left and garnered nothing in return, some more at Poile and others aimed at Suter. Imagine that happening to Weber, and it’s a dark day.
Fans are MAD AT RYAN SUTER (well, most of them)
And there may be a reason to be. I don’t expect he’ll get a good reception when he returns. Why? Regardless on whether or not you believe him or David Poile on who was right on the breakup, Suter’s quotes throughout the year hurt a proud guy like David Poile after a season where he tried everything to please him, and was public about it. While Suter’s quotes and tactics are pretty much commonplace for coaches and athletes leaving (See: Nick Saban), it still doesn’t get easier to digest when it happens. Chris Chelios leaving Chicago for Detroit likely was more nasty, but in the age of Twitter and electronic media where everything athletes say is documented and easily accessible, it’s very easy to vilify Suter. An angry desperate front office in a thin free agent market could make for some interesting times.
Other fans are MAD AT DAVID POILE
General Manager David Poile did everything to keep Suter on the ice, and offered more money than we thought he ever would. But some argue that if Suter wasn’t going to sign, he should’ve been moved. Others are bitter at his comments on the conference call immediately after. Poile came across as a bitter man, and was vengeful about not getting the shot to match the offer and threw out some quotes that Ryan gave him throughout the year. Poile did what he could to bring him back, but failing to prepare for the worst has the general manager receiving some rare criticism. I don’t disagree, you would think he’s been through this stuff before seeing how he’s been a GM for decades now. But his good faith went unrewarded. I can understand those commending the man, but criticizing the general manager of a hockey franchise.
Uncertainty kills. Uncertainty nearly killed this franchise, swayed free agents to leave before, prompted fire sales, and has been a stigma that Nashville has been unable to shake until recently. And now with the uncertainty of the retaining of Weber, this won’t be a fun summer unless Suter’s whole in the lineup is plugged. With the addition of another top pair defenseman, all will be right in the world of Nashville, and assuming Weber signs, it may become the destination of free agents finally. If the other route is chosen, the rockier route, it’ll be prospects and Pekka carrying the banner forward. It will be back to the old Predators, and it’s a real possibility that the franchise goes in reverse for a while if the kids don’t turn out to be stars. Uncertainty can’t last long, or it will smother this team’s chance to keep charging towards the elite status of the league. If the chips fall in the right places, they’re pretty close to the top of the hill.
Some final perspective- at least they didn’t sign in Detroit.