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Two rounds and out = Red Wings have the inside track on Ryan Suter? St. James ponders that scenario

Updated 3x with Ansar Khan’s take at 3:25 PM: The Free Press’s Helene St. James, who will take part in a live chat with readers at 11 AM EDT today, added some napalm to the controversy (among fans, anyway) regarding Johan Franzen’s rough playoff run as compared to his strong showing with Sweden at the World Championships overnight.

This morning, she wonders aloud whether the Red Wings might take advantage of the Nashville Predators’ second-round ouster to help “sell” Ryan Suter on joining Nashville’s slain archrival despite having bested a team which has a more stable roster going forward, while also possessing what might be a more consistent and financially viable commitment to win, and spend to the cap in order to do so, on a yearly basis:

We all know the Wings are interested in Ryan Suter, an extraordinarily talented 27-year-old defenseman who is eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1. The Predators would like to keep him, but they also want to keep their captain and Norris trophy finalist, Shea Weber, who will be a restricted free agent. They just extended goalie Pekka Rinne’s contract for $49 million over seven years. They have a projected $32 million in salary-cap space for next season, but they only have 12 players signed. Up front, nine players are headed for some sort of free agency, and so are five on defense, including Suter and Weber.

Weber made $7.5 million this season and, given the year he’s had and how brightly his star is shining right now, he’s not going to take any less. Christian Ehrhoff made a staggering $10 million this past season with Buffalo, but his contract is for $40 million and 10 years, so the cap hit is $4 million. A better comparison is to Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Chicago’s Duncan Keith. Chara, 35, made $8.5 million last season, in what was the first year of a seven-year deal worth $45.5 million (that’s a cap hit of nearly $7 million). Keith, a 28-year-old Michigan State alumnus, made $8 million last season and will make the same each of the next two seasons. His deal is 13 years at $72 million, with a cap hit of about $5.5 million per year.

So Weber will hit some sort of jackpot. Suter is going to get a raise, too, because he just finished a contract that paid him $3.5 million each of the past four years. He’s going to demand around $7 million and probably will need a long-term deal to get a respectable salary-cap number. The fact that the collective bargaining agreement is expiring makes the numbers game harder, but the salary cap is expected to stay around the $64.3 million it was in 2011-12.

The Wings have $43.5 million committed to 17 players headed into next season. The big question is whether captain Nicklas Lidstrom will return or retire. But even if he does return, the Wings need to replace Brad Stuart. Allotting Lidstrom the same $6.2 million he made last season, the Wings still have room to add Suter, especially if they can work a deal that gets the cap hit down to around $5 million.

(And yes, there’d also be room to add forward Zach Parise, should that scenario unfold).

Now why does it help the Wings that the Coyotes bumped the Predators in five games? Because it means the Predators, for all the gambling they did at the trade deadline to become deeper for the playoffs, are still a team that never has made it past the second round of the playoffs. They’re a team that has won all of two playoff series. Had they gone further, maybe Suter—and let me make it clear this is me speculating—sees the Predators as a place he can win. Now they don’t look quite so formidable.

St. James suggests that the Red Wings’ star power (see: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, yes, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, yes, Jimmy Howard, etc.), strong supporting cast, cap space, of course, and much more secure roster situation—the Wings’ only unrestricted free agents are Jiri Hudler, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and Ty Conklin, and other than re-signing restricted free agents Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey, next year’s Wings are highly likely to resemble this year’s Wings team in terms of personnel, coaching and of course team philosophy and ownership’s commitment to winning on an every-year basis instead of going for it all in what might have been a one-and-done run for an ownership group that can’t sustain its spending.

I think that the Predators might very well re-sign Suter, who seems to be pretty darn happy where he is, but I’m curious as to what you think…And I’m sure St. James will want to hear from you when her chat begins in a few minutes.

Update: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan weighs in on the situation as well:

The Ryan Suter watch will definitely begin in earnest now that the Nashville Predators have been eliminated in the playoffs. Every move and quote regarding Suter’s upcoming free agency is going to be analyzed for the next month. The Phoenix Coyotes made sure of that with a surprising five-game series victory over Nashville.

Suter can an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He is on the radar screen of the Red Wings, but also the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings, among others.

The Predators have been optimistic about re-signing Suter. Ownership has said it’ll be aggressive in keeping Suter and fellow defenseman Shea Weber (a restricted free agent), after signing goalie Pekka Rinne to a big contract early this season. But the fact the Predators have 15 unrestricted or restricted free agents, and with a limited overall bidget to do so, makes the situation sticky.

Also is the fact Nashville couldn’t get past the second round. The Predators, ultimately, could have shown Suter they are a true Stanley Cup contender had they reached the Western Conference Finals or made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. They certainly looked the part against the Red Wings. But Phoenix pretty much had its way against the Predators in round two.

Even if the Predators can re-sign Suter, the lack of depth surrounding Suter, Rinne and Weber could be a negative in Suter’s mind. The Predators wouldn’t look much different than they’ve been looking for the past several seasons. Which, further, could force Suter out of Music City.

And to the Red Wings? We’ll see.

Update #3: the Nashville Examiner’s Jim Diamond offers this take on Suter:

All-star defenseman Ryan Suter is slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1st unless the Predators can ink him to a new deal prior to that date. Defensemen of Suter’s ilk do not hit the market very often, so the potential suitors for Suter’s services will be many, and they will come with large contracts offers and will attempt to convince him that their team has the potential to with the Stanley Cup he so desires.

Suter is coming off of a contract that paid him $3.5 million, less than half the amount that was paid to his defensive partner and fellow All-star Shea Weber. Nashville’s attempts to re-sign Suter have failed thus far. During this winter’s All-star weekend in Ottawa, Suter announced that he wanted to concentrate on playing and not negotiating a new deal, causing waves across the hockey-playing parts of North America.

Following Monday night’s elimination, Suter did not sound like he was long for Nashville. It may be easy to read too much into a statement that was made just minutes after a disappointing loss, but when asked if he wanted to be back in Nashville, Suter said, “Right now I am kind of disappointed about how tonight went, and I haven’t really thought about it.”

Prior to delivering that answer, Suter repeated the question asked of him, a ‘tell’ that skilled investigators will say is a sign that the forthcoming answer may not be completely accurate. To think that Suter hasn’t thought about whether or not he wants to stay in Nashville would seem like the most gigantic of stretches.

Update #3: And here comes MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Some expect the cap to rise from $64.3 million to around $70 million, despite uncertainly with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. In any event, it likely won’t decline.

The Red Wings will spend up to the cap if necessary. Nashville, which has a tighter budget, will not.

Suter is No. 1 on the Red Wings’ wish list, regardless of whether Lidstrom returns. Some in the organization believe Suter is the closest thing they have seen to Lidstrom. He is an all-around defenseman who moves the puck well, has a terrific shot from the point, likes to hit, logs a lot of minutes and has been extremely durable. And he’s only 27.

Suter turned down a lucrative offer from Nashville during the season. Some believe he wants to sign with the Minnesota Wild.

Suter and New Jersey forward Zach Parise – who is No. 2 on the Red Wings’ wish list – will be the premier free agents on the market, if they don’t re-sign with their teams before July 1.

The relatively thin free-agent crop will only increase their value and their number of suitors.

The Predators’ first-round triumph over the Red Wings seemed to signal a changing of the guard. But Nashville’s second-round meltdown shows just how quickly the balance of power can shift in a parity-laden NHL.

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Comments

Primis's avatar

I still don’t see how the Preds can keep all of Suter, Weber, and Rinne going forward.  Someone is going to have to either take WELL below market value, or one of them goes elsewhere.

Although, maybe after another flame-out the Preds will be happy to cut ways with Weber or Suter and try to put some more cash towards someone, anyone, to score a goal anyways.

Posted by Primis on 05/08/12 at 12:06 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Weber is very literally their poster boy, captain and most outspoken figure. I can’t see him going anywhere unless somebody is willing to toss off an RFA offer sheet and give up the multiple 1st and 2nd rounders necessary to snag him.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/08/12 at 12:12 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

I still don’t see how the Preds can keep all of Suter, Weber, and Rinne going forward. 

If this is the strategy that they want to take and stick with, just relying solely on defense first and counting on turnovers to score while winning 2-1, they’ll never go anywhere in the playoffs. I’d be fine with that.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 05/08/12 at 12:12 PM ET

awould's avatar

I don’t see a way the Predators can keep Suter, Weber and Rinne and still have money left over to cobble together a decent supporting cast. This season was their best team ever and they fell short; it won’t get this good again without a lot of luck or some unrealistically shrewd moves by Poile that probably won’t happen because other GMs aren’t stupid.

So if they keep Suter, Weber and Rinne, they’ll have to eke out games 1-0 and 2-1 and hope they hit the jackpot with a young prospect who can score goals in bunches. Not a recipe for success, especially in the playoffs.

Posted by awould on 05/08/12 at 12:20 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

they’ll have to eke out games 1-0 and 2-1 and hope they hit the jackpot with a young prospect who can score goals in bunches

They traded Blake Geoffrion for Hal Gill. Blake may not have turned into Boom Boom but Hal Gill? Really?

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 05/08/12 at 12:26 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

Weber is very literally their poster boy, captain and most outspoken figure. I can’t see him going anywhere unless somebody is willing to toss off an RFA offer sheet and give up the multiple 1st and 2nd rounders necessary to snag him.

This is the exact reason that a part of me wants Detroit to do it. I can only imagine the collective coronary the people down here would have. It would be glorious. But realistically, Suter is obviously the better choice.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 05/08/12 at 12:32 PM ET

CaptNorris5's avatar

I’d say there is less than 0% chance that Detroit lands Weber. Kenny is a hugely conservative GM - sometimes to a fault - who would never, ever, in a billion years ever, give up that many draft picks and that high of a cap hit to give a long term contract to a guy who is guaranteed to have nowhere near the same kind of longevity Lidstrom has enjoyed.

As for Suter - it will be interesting to see what shakes up. I think that scenario can really test exactly how conservative Kenny really is. If he believes Suter is a valuable piece to the Wings future, he’s going to have to throw a lot of money at him. Detroit doesn’t have the same draw that we used to - where we were the obvious first choice for free agents because it was the best chance to win. Currently, we can’t make that boast. That means for any meaningful free agent, we’re going to be stuck in a bidding war that includes teams with money they’re required to spend to get to the floor and a directive from ownership to get fans in the seats. I believe Suter can be had. I’m less convinced that he can be had for any reasonable cap hit. But sometimes to win, you’ve got to make some ballsy moves. The question remains: does Kenny have it in him to make a move that ballsy?

Posted by CaptNorris5 from The Winged Wheel, stuck in Chicago on 05/08/12 at 12:40 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

I’d say there is less than 0% chance that Detroit lands Weber.

I agree, Capt, I just said what I said as a hypothetical just because I would love to see the backlash from the fans down here.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 05/08/12 at 12:44 PM ET

awould's avatar

I’d say there is less than 0% chance that Detroit lands Weber.

Somebody on this site made a comment previously that Holland should put in an offer sheet on Weber for $2500. That would be awesome.

Posted by awould on 05/08/12 at 12:51 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

Somebody on this site made a comment previously that Holland should put in an offer sheet on Weber for $2500. That would be awesome.

It would, but the Nashville people would probably be like “I don’t get it”.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 05/08/12 at 12:54 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

I’d say there is less than 0% chance that Detroit lands Weber. Kenny is a hugely conservative GM - sometimes to a fault - who would never, ever, in a billion years ever, give up that many draft picks and that high of a cap hit
Posted by CaptNorris5 from The Winged Wheel, stuck in Chicago on 05/08/12 at 11:40 AM ET

Nor should he.

It will be unsettling enough for us to see unfamiliar, astronomical offers being made to players, whether Parise, Suter, or others, to be competitive with offers of other teams.  I don’t see the Wings going all Vinny or Brad Richards on somebody ( $10M ) although they could because that might be what it takes to get a top 2 D and top 3 forward, the few that of that caliber that will be available.

There is some risk involved in doing that this summer, not knowing what the ground rules will be just 2 months later.

Posted by RWBill from Brush Street cruising with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 05/08/12 at 01:26 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Somewhere in this maze of KK threads after the Preds lost Game 4 I posted why I had said that knee-jerk lashing out angrily at KH for not getting Paul Gaustad was unjustified and just plain wrong, same as I had done following our Game 1 when a few were just gushing over Gaustad and his blind, sheer luck, only goal in 2 1/2 months.

I won’t try to rewrite all that to explain even the low value that the Preds have put in him.  To whatever I wrote after Game 4 just update this to it:  season on the line game 5, entrusted with a mere 10:00 ice time, zero points ( again ).  As the playoffs moved on the Predators wanted him on the ice less and less.

Not pursuing Gaustad or Moen was smart.

“If the only reason you’re put on the ice is for the face off, and you’re immediately replaced to the bench, you’re not long for that roster.” - Kris Draper, quote made up by me.

Posted by RWBill from Brush Street cruising with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 05/08/12 at 01:49 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

This is gonna sound weird, but the approach for Sutter may be a little more similar to how the Wings courted Bertuzzi as Suter’s a quiet guy:

No, the Wings will not offer the same kind of crazy-money deals that other teams can afford to throw around, especially given uncertainty regarding the CBA and any restrictions upon long-term contracts to come by September…

The Wings can offer Suter and Parise very, very, very competitive wages, long-term commitments, an environment in which the players are treated like kings, and especially in Suter’s case, the opportunity to star in a real hockey hotbed without facing the same kind of media scrutiny that one would in cities/metropolitan areas of comparable size elsewhere in the NHL.

Suter would, to some extent, be allowed to play as tremendously demonstratively and decisively as he wants on the ice, and then slink back into that quiet, Brad Stuart-like personality off the ice and then go on his way, knowing that despite the media scrutiny, Metro Detroit is the kind of place where fans come up and want to shake your hand or get your autograph, but they don’t necessarily compulsively post photos of you attending a movie, having a beer with dinner, or intrude upon your personal life.

There’s something to be said for that…

And the fact that “Uncle Gary” Suter’s pal happens to be Red Wings player development specialist Chris Chelios might fare into to the equation as well. Suter is a Wisconsin alum, too, so there is at least one strong Wings tie there.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/08/12 at 01:50 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

On Gaustad: I think he’d actually fit in very, very well as a big, mean and hard-hitting faceoff specialist right here in Detroit, playing on the fourth line to allow Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Drew Miller to play together…

For the cost of his contract as opposed to a 1st rounder. Hindsight is 20-20. I would have loved the Wings to add a forward at the deadline—I do indeed believe that not adding SOMEone hurt the cause—but Holland had to telegraph his punt and go after Kyle Quincey now so that he’s not trying to spend $4 or $5 million to add a utility defenseman (see: New Jersey shelling out gigantic bucks for Volchenkov) this summer.

It is what it is. Holland could have done better, but he could have done worse, as we witnessed, and that’s why it’s so damn hard to judge trades as they are made. You have to wait and see how things pan out, and if the Predators can retain Gaustad, despite his diminished role, man, will they ever have a fourth line to be reckoned with going forward.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/08/12 at 01:55 PM ET

awould's avatar

To whatever I wrote after Game 4 just update this to it:  season on the line game 5, entrusted with a mere 10:00 ice time, zero points ( again ).  As the playoffs moved on the Predators wanted him on the ice less and less.

Also, Legwand took that final face-off with 2 seconds left, the most “must win” faceoff of their entire season. Gaustad, brought in as much for his face-off ability as his physical size and grit, was left out of the circle. Not sure if he was on the ice or not.

I think it’s safe to say that all of Poile’s moves varied from “didn’t quite work out” to “blew up in his face”. The silver lining for Nashville fans is that at least their owner and GM spent some money trying to win….. some teams can’t even make that claim.

Posted by awould on 05/08/12 at 01:56 PM ET

awould's avatar

if the Predators can retain Gaustad, despite his diminished role, man, will they ever have a fourth line to be reckoned with going forward.

true. I like Gaustad and I think he was a positive factor for them against Detroit. But he seemed to fade against PHX. Then again, their entire team faded….

Posted by awould on 05/08/12 at 01:58 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Read the update…Good stuff from the Nashville Examiner’s Jim Diamond.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/08/12 at 03:14 PM ET

awould's avatar

when asked if he wanted to be back in Nashville, Suter said, “Right now I am kind of disappointed about how tonight went, and I haven’t really thought about it.”

hidden message >>> unscramble his words!

when asked if he wanted to be back in Nashville, Suter said, “Not right now. I really thought about it and I am kind of disappointed about how tonight went.”

Posted by awould on 05/08/12 at 03:26 PM ET

CaptNorris5's avatar

Quincey for Suter’s rights. Would you make that move?

Posted by CaptNorris5 from The Winged Wheel, stuck in Chicago on 05/08/12 at 03:31 PM ET

tkfergy's avatar

Quincey for Suter’s rights. Would you make that move?

Posted by CaptNorris5 from The Winged Wheel, stuck in Chicago on 05/08/12 at 02:31 PM ET

Hudler’s rights instead…

Posted by tkfergy on 05/08/12 at 03:55 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Quincey for Suter’s rights. Would you make that move?

or Kindl? 

It seems hasty to me.  I don’t really want to give Nashville anything.  The team annoys me.  They need to get their own damned identify, and stop slurping off others (Like fans aping UM hockey fans, et al)

Posted by MoreShoot on 05/08/12 at 03:56 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

The team annoys me.  They need to get their own damned identify, and stop slurping off others (Like fans aping UM hockey fans, et al)

This. Thank you.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 05/08/12 at 04:02 PM ET

NIVO's avatar

i dont want Weber, i think he’s overrated anyways. Not sure if I’d even give up 2 hogs and a half eaten bologna sammich!

Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 05/08/12 at 04:02 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Weber is very literally their poster boy, captain and most outspoken figure. I can’t see him going anywhere unless somebody is willing to toss off an RFA offer sheet and give up the multiple 1st and 2nd rounders necessary to snag him.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/08/12 at 11:12 AM ET

He is definitely their poster boy, and I don’t see him going anywhere this offseason. But do you really think he’ll sign a huge, long-term contract with Nashville, especially if Suter leaves town? The Preds will still be a good club, because they have good management and coaching that always find a way. But they are going to look a lot different. If you were Weber, would that be the type of team, and especially the time, that you’d want to sign up to stay with for a decade?

I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Weber something between one and three years, right near the max AAV. He will want to get to UFA while he’s still in his prime so he can either make sure Nashville ownership will make good on their promise to start spending to the cap, or have his escape route open.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 05/08/12 at 04:20 PM ET

Avatar

Weber might be Nashville’s captain, but don’t mistake that for having a good relationship with management.

He was held out of the lineup as a rookie so he wouldn’t get to 40 games and thus would be a RFA for a year longer.

He was taken to arbitration by the team while their captain. He chose a one yr contract for leverage. The team low-balled their offer at 4.75M while he wanted 8.5M (less than what the top free agents got that summer). The team trashed his play and worth to a point it came out in the national papers it was only a matter of time before he left. He was awarded 7.5M making Nashville’s offer look that much more ridiculous. He can’t be taken to arbitration again so he’s not protected from an offer sheet this year.

Next he publicly lobbied for more scoring through an off-season free agent acquisition. The Preds didn’t go after one until the playoffs were a sure bet. Showing they will only do so much for their stars.

Nashville has traded away top talent before: including trading away their free agents negotiating rights (Dan Ellis, Kimo T., and Scotty Hartnell). A message that doesn’t sit well with players.

Don’t be surprised if he leaves by trade at the draft or is put in a situation like R.. Nash.

Posted by dca from in Mich on 05/09/12 at 03:48 AM ET

Avatar

The Preds are not going to trade the rights to ANY player to the Wings.  The LAST thing they want to see is a former player 6 times a year.

IMO, the Wings should bypass Suter anyway.  He’ll be looking for the JACKPOT contract this time.  Wideman is almost as good, a right hand shot, and more importantly a bit cheaper.  (I’d also try to trade Kindl).

Posted by BobaFett from Las Vegas on 05/09/12 at 04:23 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Wings should bypass Suter anyway.  He’ll be looking for the JACKPOT contract this time.  Wideman is almost as good, a right hand shot, and more importantly a bit cheaper. 


but you double your money getting Suter because you subtract him from Nashville.

Posted by MoreShoot on 05/09/12 at 04:25 PM ET

Avatar

It doesn’t matter that Nashville won’t trade negotiating rights directly to Detroit.  If you remember back: Dan Hamhuis’ rights (from Nashville) were traded on consecutive days and neither team ended up signing him (Flyers, Penguins).

So yes it is possible for Detroit to acquire Suter’s rights: Nashville could trade Suter’s rights to the team X. Team X can trade the rights to Detroit.

If they fail to reach a deal with Weber over this summer (when long term deals are not prohibited by the CBA) they might move Weber while they can get the maximum value for him—not the rental price teams pay at the deadline.

Posted by dca from in Mich on 05/09/12 at 09:00 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.