Suter may be more important to Preds than Weber…

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Shea Weber is the captain of this team and there is nobody in the league (sans a certain Boston Bruins defenseman) with a harder shot. He’s a great all-around player and he leads the Nashville Predators in scoring (32 points). He’s about to become a three time All-Star and he’s a Norris Trophy runner-up.

You know what else he is? More expendable than Ryan Suter.

The Sicamous, British Columbia native isn’t quite as dominant without his first lieutenant by his side. On the contrary, however, Suter is a more complete player without Weber by his. And he proved this recently. After Dallas Stars defenseman Mark Fistric knocked Weber out for four games with this hit on December 23, Suter averaged nearly 30:00 per game, all the while making rookie Roman Josi look like a seasoned veteran as the number two defenseman.

What about the team? Nashville hasn’t scored a goal since Suter came out of the game on Monday afternoon. Five periods, no goals. Now obviously he’s not exactly known as an offensive juggernaut but Suter is known for that elite-level first pass out of the zone. Without a good breakout, the Predators’ transition game suffers greatly.

And then there’s the results. With the captain out, the Predators are 3-1-0 this season. Without Suter? They’re a combined 4-7-1 over the past two years.

A lot of Predators fans would have said it was Suter who should have represented Nashville at the All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina last year. And while he’s going to the annual event this season, an argument could be made that he’s been the team’s best defenseman for the past two years. Weber just gets all the credit because he’s the superstar.

Which brings us to the inevitable topic of the trade deadline.

It’s generally assumed that, if General Manager David Poile can’t agree to terms with Suter (an unrestricted free agent on July 1) by February 27, the Preds should trade him and get a huge return. But Suter is a rental. What could Poile really get out of him? A lot, sure, but a goal scorer who’s locked up long term? Probably not. And if not the goal scorer, are you really addressing a need? Furthermore, teams that are “sellers” will have no interest in Suter seeing as how he’s just a rental. Thus, Poile can strike Columbus, Anaheim, Edmonton, the Islanders, Carolina, Montreal, Buffalo and Tampa off his list of potential trade partners before he even makes a phone call. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of meat on the bone.

But what if he moved Weber? He’s a restricted free agent this summer, which means he’s more than likely locked up for next season (pending an offer sheet from another team, which is rare) and he’s the blueliner with all the awards and accolades. Short and sweet? Weber’s the big name in Music City, not Suter. Therefore, Weber would bring an even bigger return. A king’s ransom, if you will.

Obviously it’s a tremendously delicate situation. If you’re Poile and you trade Suter, you’ve not only broken up the best defensive pairing in hockey but you’re going into the postseason (you hope) with a superstar defenseman who has yet to prove that he can be dominant without a top-notch partner. And, if you trade Weber, you’ve still broken up the best defensive pairing in hockey and you’ve traded away the face of your franchise. But, if you keep both (without re-signing them), you give your hockey team the best chance to win now but possibly sacrifice long term success by watching them walk away for nothing.

(See: the Dan Hamhuis situation in 2010.)

And here’s one more log on the fire. Arch-rival Detroit is most likely losing legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom next year due to retirement. If Suter tests the free agent market, the Red Wings will find a way to sign him. Does Nashville really want to see Suter in a Detroit sweater six times a year? As Patten Fuqua of puckscene.com said on The 303:30 a couple of weeks ago, the Predators have been waiting since the franchise’s inception for the Red Wings to lose Lidstrom as that would finally indicate a decline in their dominance. But if they got Suter (or Weber), they’d be hitting the reset button for another 15 years.

The Predators are known for their defense on the ice. It might be time to play a little defense with personnel too.

Some would say that having two All-Star defensemen is a good problem to have. I would say that I absolutely would not want to be David Poile for the next six weeks.

PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Nicholson // special to section303.com (used with permission)

SPECIAL THANKS to Buddy Oakes of Preds On the Glass, Ryan Porth of smashville 24/7 and Amanda DiPaolo of Inside Smashville for their second set of eyes on this post.

9 Comments

  1. AndrewSlemp

    January 18, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I agree with your analysis to a T; however, I worry it’s not that simple. If Polie can be trusted (and that’s an if) then it’s not a matter of giving him money and he will sign, they’ve tried the money and Suter reported said he wants to see commitment. So signing Suter isn’t just give him money, you have to make a commitment to a championship. Then there’s Weber who said today from Dave Lozo of nhl.com that he wants to be in Nashville if they are willing to keep people and get better. So in my opinion it’s not a matter of Sign Suter versus sign Weber. I think it will be, sign both (and probably somebody else) or sign neither. It’s a big time for Preds fans because to me it seems like it’s Stanley Cup time now (being the next 3 years or so) or rebuilding year next.

  2. DaveGutzman

    January 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I agree

  3. DaveGutzman

    January 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I think it will take Nashville opening up it’s pocket books for either Weber or Suter to resign. Nashville currently has the lowest payroll in the league. We aren’t near the mid part of the salary cap like we have traditionally been. I would go as far as saying Nashville has to bring in 2 players before Weber and Suter would consider signing, regardless of what money Poile throws at them. I think Nashville needs a 1st line LW (Bobby Ryan) and a legitimate #3 Veteran Big boddied D-Man who can take up 20+ minutes and pair with Roman Josi. However, Even if we brought in two more players, I am still not sure Weber or Suter would resign. I think there are gaps at Center as well. Fisher isn’t cutting it and we don’t have a 1st line Center. So maybe that is a 3rd part that is needed. If so, we are screwed, I could see us bringing 2 pieces of the puzzle, but not 3. Lastly, I think there is a spending issue. We all hear about all these sellouts and the deep playoff run last year. If Nashville wants to make a true statement to Weber and Suter, they need to consider spending OVER the midpoint of the cap. Yes we would lose revenue sharing. Weber and Suter want to play for a team that is willing to spend the money to win the CUP every year. Nashville’s ownership talks a big game, but considering we still have the lowest PR in the league, right now it’s all talk and no action

  4. DaveGutzman

    January 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I think it will take Nashville opening up it’s pocket books for either Weber or Suter to resign. Nashville currently has the lowest payroll in the league. We aren’t near the mid part of the salary cap like we have traditionally been. I would go as far as saying Nashville has to bring in 2 players before Weber and Suter would consider signing, regardless of what money Poile throws at them. I think Nashville needs a 1st line LW (Bobby Ryan) and a legitimate #3 Veteran Big boddied D-Man who can take up 20+ minutes and pair with Roman Josi. However, Even if we brought in two more players, I am still not sure Weber or Suter would resign. I think there are gaps at Center as well. Fisher isn’t cutting it and we don’t have a 1st line Center. So maybe that is a 3rd part that is needed. If so, we are screwed, I could see us bringing 2 pieces of the puzzle, but not 3. Lastly, I think there is a spending issue. We all hear about all these sellouts and the deep playoff run last year. If Nashville wants to make a true statement to Weber and Suter, they need to consider spending OVER the midpoint of the cap. Yes we would lose revenue sharing. Weber and Suter want to play for a team that is willing to spend the money to win the CUP every year. Nashville’s ownership talks a big game, but considering we still have the lowest PR in the league, right now it’s all talk and no action

  5. predswilrule

    January 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    i actually believe its likely weber doesnt want any part of us considering how last off season played out. i would trade him in a minute, but only for current help…. meaning a top flight scorer. if that helps w/ suter great. if he doesnt want to be here either then we repeat the process. it would be a step back for the organization, but so was losing vokuon, kimmo and harts… and we survived.

  6. predswilrule

    January 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    and i agree w/ the all talk, no action. we had alot of momentum coming out of last season, dump some over the hill vets( whiich i applaud) then sign bergfors for our big move. it was certainly a chance worth taking, but that was all we did. i wanted ward, but agreed that he wasnt worth that contract considering our overall needs.

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