Today’s decision by Ryan Suter hurts. There’s no sugar coating that.
David Poile and Barry Trotz clearly wanted Suter back in the fold with the organization; that much was clear the way they spoke about Suter the past few days. But in the same breath they spoke about back-up plans in case Suter’s decision didn’t go the way the Preds wanted.
All season the Preds tried to accommodate Suter’s requests. Suter stated he enjoyed the Nashville area, enjoyed playing for Coach Trotz, enjoyed what the Preds had to offer; his main concern was whether the organization would pull the trigger on moves to make the team a Stanley Cup frontrunner. To that end Nashville was the most active team at this year’s Trade Deadline, mortgaging future assets for pieces to help with the 2012 Playoffs. Nashville aggressively moved to re-sign Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad before free agency started. Had Suter decided to stay, the Preds likely would have become the prohibitive favorite to win the Central Division in 2012-13.
Because of everything the organization did to try to accommodate Suter’s requests --- and then to still lose Suter in the end --- it hurts.
Before we rush to judge Suter’s decision not re-sign with Nashville and what it means for the Preds we need to see how the back-up plan plays out.
It’s tough to be patient. Especially this time of year. There are no games being played right now, so free agent signings and speculations are all we have to talk about. But “winning” or “losing” the off-ice battles in July doesn’t necessarily equate to success or failure on the ice in October, November, March, April, etc.
While it stings right now the process with Suter made one thing very clear, the Preds do have money to spend this summer. By all accounts Suter’s decision came down to family and geography, not money. Suter himself told the Preds it wasn’t about money. That financial flexibility gives Poile and the Preds several options remaining.
The Preds will add another top defenseman before the start of the season, be it through free agency or trade. There are some interesting options on both fronts potentially available to the Preds. And any of those options will likely allow the Preds more flexibility to pursue scoring options at forward.
And because of the organization’s impressive young depth on defense means there are ample candidates to benefit from added responsibilities. On first glance, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis appear main beneficiaries. Josi was as good as any rookie defenseman in the league over the second half of last season; his game is very similar to Suter’s and his on-ice performance matches up well with what Suter produced early in his career. Ellis is as decorated a defenseman to come out of the Canadian Junior system in a generation. His first pro season – split between the AHL and NHL – was impressive and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the lessons he learned last season allows him to emerge as a dangerous offensive defenseman in ’12-13.
At the same time, the decision by Suter has no bearing on the team’s commitment to Shea Weber. David Poile talked Sunday evening about the team’s position with Weber and his pending contract. The Preds have kept Weber in the loop about Suter’s situation, so the line of communication has already been open between the two parties.
With Weber and Rinne in fold, plus the offensive balance already locked up – Nashville has 13 forwards under contract for next season, a very similar, if not more impressive, group up front that ranked eighth in the NHL in goals scored last season – the Preds, on paper, appear poised in 2012-13 to match up very similarly to Nashville’s 104-point campaign last season … especially once Poile and crew add their replacement on defense and the roster picture becomes more complete.