Ryan Suter made headlines at a media event at the NHL All Star game by saying that he did not believe that he would sign with the Predators before the February 27th trade deadline.
That sound you just heard was Predators GM David Poile cracking open a bottle of Maalox.
Suter creates a problem for Poile with this stance because he is an unrestricted free agent July 1, and the risk by not trading him is that the Predators could see one of their All Star defensemen walk away for nothing in return. Suter said,
"I don't see it being a benefit by hurrying up and trying to get something done. I'm a Nashville Predator until July 1. I will focus on making my team better.""I'm a Nashville Predator until July 1."
Sounds ominous doesn't it.
TSN's Bob McKenzie said "He's intimated that he wants to see what the Nashville Predators do between now and the deadline in terms of adding other components that would make the team that much stronger and show that they're legitimate playoff contenders."
"Legitimate playoff contenders"?
Currently the Predators have 64 points, solidly in 5th place and just 3 points behind Western Conference leader Detroit.
I think that qualifies as a legitimate playoff contender.
So, David Poile, you know what to do. Pick up the 40 goal scoring left wing hot line and get a "component" in here so that Suter knows the team is committed to being a "legitimate" playoff contender.
If it were that easy.
It's obvious that the Predators would like to add more scoring punch, a forward that can consistently put the puck in the net.
So would 29 other teams.
To be a team that is a buyer, there has to be a team or teams that are going to be sellers. Looking at the Western Conference, currently Columbus and Edmonton are in a position to be sellers. Anaheim is on the bubble. In the East, potential sellers are Tampa Bay, Buffalo, the Islanders, and Carolina.
Let's take Columbus as an example, since the Predators are very familiar with them. The two names that jump out a valuable components that would add scoring punch are Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. If GM Scott Howson is inclined to trade either of those two players, you can be certain that there will be substantial assets coming back the other way. Preds GM David Poile could try to package a depth defenseman, draft picks, and maybe a goaltender in the system to try facilitate a trade.
Think that would pry Nash or Carter out of Columbus?
Neither do I.
And this is the dilemma that Poile faces. The Predators are one of the better balanced teams in the NHL, with 9 players that have 10 or more goals. They score by committee, and the sum of their forwards is greater than the individual forwards themselves. To facilitate a trade for a stud forward will require a lot of these players to go back the other way.
Is this addition by subtraction, or is it tampering with a very good team chemistry? That is one of the risks that Poile confronts with trying to satisfy Ryan and land an elite player.
My question to Ryan Suter is this: are the Predators NOT a legitimate playoff contender?
Head Coach Barry Trotz has taken a very young squad and has them 3 points out of the first spot in the West. The Predators are 11-2-2 against Central Division opponents, the best record in the NHL against divisional opponents. Nashville is 5th in the NHL in wins; 2nd on the power play; 12th on the penalty kill; 12th in goals for; and 9th in goals against.
Like I said- sounds legitimate to me.
Is Suter saying he does not have confidence in his teammates to continue to play at the level at which they have been playing?
I don't think so.
I believe that he is saying some more punch up front is welcome and needed.
I don't disagree with that assessment.
If McKenzie's assessment is accurate- and I have a feeling it is- the corner into which Suter has painted himself, and by extension David Poile, is this: suppose the team adds the components that he- Poile- believes will be what the Predators need to contend for the Cup. Does Poile have to clear this with Suter? Obviously not.
But what if Suter does not think the player or players added to roster are what the Predators need?
"I am a Nashville Predator until July 1."
Has Suter made himself a de facto GM? I don't think that was his intention, but that is what he has done with the decision not to sign before the deadline.
The Predators ownership has said they will spend to the cap and do what is necessary to sign the team's key players, so one would believe that the money is not an issue to sign Suter. With a current payroll just under $50 million, the Predators have the room, and apparently the willingness to sign Suter.
A player's contract is personal, financial compensation and term that is negotiated between a player and his team. Suter's requirement that additional players that appear to have to be acceptable to him have removed this negotiation from the realm of the personal and into the realm of the personnel, which is usually the domain of the GM.
By doing this, Suter has exponentially made David Poile's job more difficult. For Poile, there is no net below this high wire.
Although Poile has said Suter is off the market, I think he has to entertain reasonable offers that will still come for this All Star. He would be foolish not to do so. Poile will still most certainly attempt to lock up Suter, but if he is unable to facilitate a trade or trades that help the team and satisfy Suter, I would not be surprised to see Suter moved before the deadline.
Crack open another bottle of Maalox, David.