Oh, Ryan Suter. Once one of the most beloved figures in Smashville, he is now the most hated villain, and for good reason. Back in 2012 he strung along the fans, team, and management regarding his contract and willingness to re-sign with the team. All indications were good that he would come back, keep playing alongside Shea Weber, and lead the Predators for years to come.
At the very least he would give the Predators a chance to match any offer he received. Then free agency hit, and on July 4th, 2012, Suter declared his independence from the Nashville Predators and signed an offer from the Minnesota Wild with his pal, Zach Parise.
David Poile wasn’t even given the chance to match. Predators fans were stunned. Then they were saddened. Then they were angry. And for once it wasn’t with the cheapness of the franchise. They were angry and hurt that one of their star players left Nashville for a different team for a reason other than money. Predators’ fans took it personally.
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Ever since that day, Suter has been welcomed to Bridgestone Arena with a chorus of boos every time he touches the puck, and considering how much ice time he gets, that’s a lot of booing. It’s well deserved for a lot of reasons. He insulted the town by leaving, the Predators went through two tough seasons as soon as he left, and the list goes on. But it’s time to stop all of that now. He gets it. If the Predators were still terrible, booing would be all the fans have left, but the Predators are kind of good this year.
It’s time to stop acting like the jilted ex-lover and start acting like the smug ex-lover who found someone better. Suter’s departure is the single biggest catalyst for all of Nashville’s success this year. Everything good that has happened this year can be traced back to the day he left.
Money for Something
Suter signed in Minnesota for $98 million over 13 years. IF Nashville had been able to sign him to a deal, it would have had to have been for more than that. It’s also a heavily front-loaded contract, much like Weber’s contract is. According to Spotrac.com Weber is getting $14 million this year and Suter is getting $11 million. That’s just the base salary. Between them, they also receive a total of $19 million in signing bonus money this year alone.
Oh, and let’s not forget about Suter’s BFF, Parise. He just HAD to play with his good buddy Zach, didn’t he? There was no way to get Suter without him. So if the Predators had been able to talk Suter into staying, he was going to bring his plus-one to the party. Parise’s contract is a bit more manageable on the front end than the other two, at least cash-wise. However, it still carries the same cap hit and a good amount of bonus money.
Now, if Nashville had been able to sign Suter and Parise, would they have been able to keep Weber? Would they have wanted to? David Poile may have had a stroke having to shell out that much money for three players all in one summer. Though Suter and Parise are undoubtedly elite NHL players, Weber was and is the face of the Predators franchise. Losing him that summer would have been even more devastating for the team than losing Suter.
Maybe Poile re-signs Weber in that scenario, maybe not (I think he does), but the fact is that with Suter gone, it wasn’t even a question. The Predators were going to match any offer that Weber received. Keeping Weber in Nashville was always more important than keeping Suter. With Suter off the table, money wasn’t going an issue for Poile when deciding whether to match Philadelphia’s offer sheet.
The Nashville Predators are a historically
, salary-savvy team. That has changed a bit in recent years, but there’s no denying that even with the new ownership group, Nashville is still a small-market franchise that has to make smart moves and carefully manage it’s assets. Paying out those contracts would put a strain on any team, small market, big market, or super market. For Nashville it would have been almost impossible. By leaving, Suter freed up a great deal of money for Nashville to use in other places, allowing David Poile to construct a more balanced team.
The balanced team that is on the ice this year is a result of shrewd cap management. Right now the Predators sit $8 million under the salary cap at $61 million against a $69 million cap. That money is going to come in handy this off-season when Poile has a slew of free-agents to re-sign. If you’ve already done the math, you know that $8 million is less than it would have cost to keep Suter and sign Parise, so there would have been significant cuts to the team. All things being the same, keeping just Suter would have put the Predators up against the cap ceiling, which would result in a good portion of the roster leaving this off-season.
Pekka Rinne and Weber take up a combined $14.8 million against the cap. Suter and Parise take up $15 million together. If Suter had stayed and brought Parise with him, nearly half of the team’s current cap space would have been taken up by four players. Four. Let that sink in. Half of the current salary cap number would be taken up by just enough players to complete the shootout. Instead, Nashville has Roman Josi, James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, and Mike Fisher for less money than just Suter and Parise.
Had Suter stayed, Nashville would be hard-pressed to keep many of the top players they have today. Instead, they’d have two defensemen, a goalie, and a forward. Instead, the Predators have a full roster of dynamic players on a team that (despite recent problems) has a chance to win the Central Division and the Western Conference. It’s also allowed Nashville to sign younger players and give them a chance to grow.
When Suter left, he left a gap on the right side of Shea Weber. At the time Nashville had no one to fill that gap. The Predators were forced to throw a young Josi into the fire and hope for the best. Everyone knew he was a good player with a great deal of potential, but could he be the second coming of Ryan Suter? Could he be the top line player to compliment All-Star Weber?
His first year out showed some promise. He was young and inexperienced to be sure, but the flashes were there. Fast-forward to 2015 and he has arrived. Right now Josi leads all Predator defensemen with 49 points. He has five points more than Weber. That’s also good for third overall on the team, five points behind Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg for the team lead.
Had Suter not left, Josi wouldn’t have had the chance to take this giant leap from solid, promising second pairing defenseman to top-tier, dark-horse Norris candidate. Love Minnesota for helping to speed up the process of turning a promising young defenseman into an elite blueliner.
There are other things to consider as well. If Suter had stayed, Nashville wouldn’t have finished as low as they did in 2013, and Seth Jones most likely would have never have been drafted. The team would probably have continued to be “good enough” for the last two years, meaning that Barry Trotz may never have been fired, depriving the Predators of the high-flying style of Peter Laviolette. With Barry Trotz still in Nashville, there’s likely no trade for James Neal. The Predators remain that scrappy underdog that plays better than their talent in the regular season.
All in all, Suter’s departure has the Predators in a better position now than they were three years ago. As much fun as it is to boo him, it’s time to stop. It was fun for a while, but we’ve moved on. We’re in a better relationship now, with someone who’s better looking and treats us the way we want to be treated. Our new relationship doesn’t run off to Minnesota for a boys’ trip on a whim, and communicates with us the way we like. When we were still heartbroken, the booing was fine. It was cathartic, really. Fans needed to express themselves. But it’s time to move on. If you really want to get under his skin, shout “Thank You!” every time he gets the puck.