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Home All Likely factors in Suter’s decision-making process

Likely factors in Suter’s decision-making process

There are 46 days between now and July 1st, the day the NHL free agency period opens. That day will get here before we know it. And before the frenzy commences, we will likely know what Suter’s future will be with the Nashville Predators.

There are three big factors that will go into Suter’s decision-making process to either stay in Nashville or sign elsewhere.

Career-ending contract

When Suter met with the media last week here in Nashville, there was one telling quote from the 2012 All-Star defenseman:

“Wherever I sign I want to be there for the rest of my career,” said the 27-year-old Suter, who also cited his family as being a factor in his decision.

The next day, Predators GM David Poile said, “I have a good feeling it’s going to be a difficult contractual situation,” between Suter and the organization.

There is no doubt that the contract Suter gets this summer from Team X is going to be a long and substantial one. Those quotes from Poile and Suter all but assure that – if we didn’t already assume it will be a long-term deal.

If they re-sign restricted free agent Shea Weber to a long-term deal, can the Predators afford to have three players (the other being Pekka Rinne) under contract for the next decade with big money attached? Can the Predators even afford to give Suter one of the increasingly popular front-loaded contracts? It would minimize the cap hit but increase the actual salary ($10 million?) in the front half of the contract, something that isn’t ideal for the Predators.

The Predators say they will be a cap team in the near future, but how long can they realistically stay there? A 10-year contract for Suter worth $70-80 million may look bad for the Predators if they can no longer be a cap team four years down the road.

If the Predators cannot put together a long-term deal that would entice Suter to sign before July 1st, you know another NHL team would be able to sign him to a front-loaded contract as soon as the market opens.

This is Suter’s one shot at striking rich in free agency.

In January he may have said it’s not about the money, but look at what defensemen James Wisniewski (6 years, $33 million) and Christian Ehrhoff (10 years, $40 million) signed for last summer. The market for Suter will be even greater this summer, with the fall-off in talent after him being drastic. With his market value being, more or less, $7.5 million today, that could increase to $8-9 million by the free agent frenzy.

Wherever Suter signs, it’s going to be a monster contract. He’s the Ilya Kovalchuk of this off-season, in the sense that he is the first stud defenseman in this era to (potentially) hit free agency just as he’s entering his prime.

Kovalchuk, also 27 at the time, signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with New Jersey in 2010. Suter’s deal probably won’t be as big as that one, but to think what he could earn come July 1st, from the Predators or elsewhere, is mind-numbing.

Is Nashville a consistent contender?

Suter wants to play for a consistent Stanley Cup contender. Everyone does, but tell me: how many consistent Stanley Cup contenders are there really in today’s NHL?

In the last eight postseasons, 13 different teams have reached the Cup final. After this spring, that number will likely grow to 15 in the last nine postseasons. Since New Jersey won in 2003, there have been nine different champions in the last nine years. Next month, a 10th different Cup champion will be crowned in as many years. The word ‘dynasty’ is ancient history.

The Predators are just entering their prime as a Cup contender, like Suter is individually. This past season they shed the label of simply being a playoff contender and became an elite NHL team, and Suter was a big part of that. Additionally, the Predators have made the playoffs seven times in the last eight seasons; only Detroit and San Jose have qualified every year in that time span.

With the young talent they possess, the Predators will be a contender for a while – especially if Suter signs for the long haul. Any team with Suter, Weber and Rinne patrolling the back end is a contender.

So yes, Nashville is a contender – and Suter may not be able to find a more consistent contender (on a Predators-like uptick, no less) around the NHL.

Unless Suter is bluffing and this is all about the money, the Predators have everything he wants.

The soft-spoken Suter can continue living a private life in Nashville where the citizens don’t even bother Kenny Chesney on the streets, much less a big hockey figure. If Suter were to sign in Vancouver, Detroit, Philadelphia or any other big market, Suter would uncomfortably be living in a fishbowl environment.

And yes, the team on the ice meets Suter’s demands.

“Ryan recognizes the fact that we are a young team and we have some good core people, and he’s one of the core people,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said last week. “I know he loves Nashville and I feel very encouraged that he will be part of the solution going forward for a long time.”

Shea Weber’s shadow

All of that being said, does Suter want to continue to play in the shadow of Weber? The two have been paired together since they arrived in Nashville, and they have a certain synergy on the blue-line that is unmatched around the NHL.

Suter’s comment from last week – “I enjoy playing with him and would love to play with him wherever that would be.” – would suggest he’s willing to continue to play with Weber.

Suter also doesn’t have an individually-driven ego that would specifically prompt him to leave Nashville so he didn’t have to share the spotlight with Weber for the next decade.

The thing is, the spotlight is mostly on Weber. Although a great defenseman, likely in the top 10 in the league, Suter has to fight for the attention he gets. Weber is the Predators’ captain and, between the big hits and slap shots, plays a style of game that stands out. Suter’s game is the opposite, though similarly effective.

If you are Suter, do you say all the right things but in the back of your mind try to escape Weber’s shadow? If Suter signs elsewhere and succeeds, he could contend with Weber for the Norris Trophy. If Suter stays in Nashville, he may never win a Norris and never get the recognition he truly deserves. But again, it’s not in Suter’s DNA to pack up and leave just so he gets more attention.

This probably won’t be a determining factor in Suter’s decision-making process, but it’s something that can’t be ignored.

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