The Nashville Predators still don't know where they stand with unrestricted free agent defenseman Ryan Suter one day into free agency. General manager David Poile plans to change that quickly.
"It's a nervous time for our franchise because we've really got all of our eggs in this particular position, in his basket right now," Poile said Sunday.
Poile added that it is time for him to make a firm, competitive, lucrative, long-term contract offer to Suter with the hope that he gets a quick answer so the Predators can determine how they're going to map out the rest of their offseason. Poile said he hadn't yet made an offer "in totality of dollars" to Suter because his camp, including agent Neil Sheehy, had not asked for one.
However, Poile knows that is the next step in his courtship of the player who has spent his entire seven-year career in Nashville after the Predators made him the No. 7 pick in the 2003 NHL Draft.
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"If I have any ability I'd like to resolve this sooner or later because there are some other directions to go and we're running out of options," Poile said. "I may not be able to affect that, but I need to do that."
Suter isn't expected to make his decision until Monday at the earliest.
Poile understands the ramifications here, so he also plans to include Predators captain Shea Weber, who is a restricted free agent, in the process as it pertains to a firm offer to Suter. Weber has stated his desire to play the rest of his career with Suter, but his future in Nashville could be linked to whatever Suter decides.
"Suts is in an enviable position that he's got everybody coming after him and the money obviously is going to be whatever he wants it to be," Poile said. "I am hopeful that he's going to make his decision based on his team, and his teammates, and the city of Nashville compared to everything else that is out there. I have always felt that having done all that that he will come back. I must admit, though, on July 1 it's probably going a bit slower than I anticipated."
Poile, who said he talked with Sheehy "a couple of times" Sunday, realizes he may not be able to speed up the process because "Ryan controls all the cards right now." However, he's going to try and said the Predators are in a position to offer Suter the term and money he desires.
A potential backup option for the Predators, Jason Garrison, signed a six-year contract with Vancouver on Sunday night.
"If (Suter) comes back and signs with us that's terrific and we live happily ever after, but we need to move this forward because there are a couple of other directions that we may want to go in if we knew he wasn't coming back," Poile said. "I want to be crystal clear with what level of commitment that we're going jot make to him so there is no misinterpretation to whether it be length of contract or amount of money that we're willing to give."
Poile, though, added if he doesn't get an answer from Suter in a timely manner (he did not specify a deadline) he might still look at other options while Suter is an unrestricted free agent.
"We've done all the talking," Poile said, "it's time to take it to another step."
Poile was able to do that with several other positions of need over the past three days. He re-signed defenseman Hal Gill to a two-year contract on and center Paul Gaustad to a four-year contract prior to the free agent signing period opening at noon ET Sunday. Poile then signed goalie Chris Mason to a one-year contract Sunday.
Mason, who previously played for the Predators, will be Pekka Rinne's backup. He went 8-7-1 in 20 appearances with Winnipeg this past season.
"Obviously we're very familiar and comfortable with Chris," Poile said. "I think in this scenario with Pekka being signed long term we've got the perfect person, the perfect character. Chris is all about team. His work ethic is second to none. I think he gives us experience in that position that everybody is looking for. It's a real good fit for the Predators."
Gill and Gaustad were also priorities for Poile. He traded for both right around the deadline this past February. Gill got $4 million for two years and Gaustad got $13 million for four years.
"They bought into our culture, our plan going forward," Poile said. "Both are big men, both are physical. Both are very experienced. Both bring a lot of leadership. I think they both serve very specific roles: Hal Gill in his defensive responsibilities and specifically his penalty killing; Gaustad with the faceoffs, the penalty kill, the center ice position."
Now, though, Poile finds himself in a holding pattern as he waits for Suter to decide on his future and where he will make his millions.
Poile will again try to convince Suter that Nashville is the right place, this time with years and dollars. He's hoping to get the answer he wants -- quickly.
The immediate future of the Predators may very well be hanging in the balance.