Ryan Suter did not want to think about his contract situation during the season. Moments after that season ended Monday, he had not had time to think about it.
The questions always were there, though.
“After the game I got asked it and I kind of got caught off guard,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “You’re in playoff mode and you lose and you just don’t think about it. Now all of a sudden it’s brought up. I haven’t had time to sit back and really talk with my family and figure out what we want to do.”
Enough time has passed since the Predators’ 2-1 loss in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Phoenix that he at least has started the process.
The question of where the 27-year-old will play next season will not go away until it is answered. Barring a decision to re-sign with the Predators, he will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
What he decides will have a ripple effect throughout the organization. Nearly one-third of the 27 players on the playoff roster, including Suter, will be available to anyone once the current contract year ends.
None, though, will command the kind of dollars Suter will.
“[Wednesday] morning I had a meeting with [general manager] David [Poile] and we talked about everything, the future and how everything will go,” Suter said. “I think we’re going to meet again in a couple of weeks and kind of make a decision.
“It’s such a big decision for me and my family.”
As players cleaned out their lockers and had exit interviews, he said he planned to take a few weeks to ponder all the possible scenarios, consult with family memories and separate the emotions of a disappointing finish so that he can properly decide how to start the next phase of his career.
“Wherever I sign I want to be there for the rest of my career,” he said. “And that affects my family — my wife, my [son], everything.”
The issue of Suter’s status led to headlines during the All-Star break.
In his first appearance at the midseason showcase event, he said he had no plans to re-sign with the Predators prior to the league’s trade deadline. That led to speculation that he would be traded and had league-wide media buzzing about possible destinations.
A day later, he attempted to minimize the fervor with additional comments.
He finished the season with the Predators and set career-highs for assists (39) and points (46).
“Your emotions are so high throughout the year,” Suter said. “You try not to have any distractions. You’re so focused. Now that the year is over you just want to get away from everything and wind down. You’ve got meetings going on and you’re trying to get back home with your family.
“I think it’s time just to get away from it for a while.”
Yet the questions about his future are not going anywhere.
A look at other contract issues that await this offseason:
• Nashville players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, with 2011-12 salary in parentheses: Suter, D ($3.5 million) Francis Bouillon ($1.5 million); Paul Gaustad, C ($2.5 million); Hal Gill, D ($2.25 million); Andrei Kostitsyn, LW ($3.25 million); Brian McGrattan, RW ($600,000); Jordin Tootoo, RW ($1.35 million); Brandon Yip, LW ($750,000).
• Nashville players scheduled to be restricted free agents: Jack Hillen, D ($650,000); Sergei Kostitsyn, LW ($2.5 million); Anders Lindback, G ($737,500); Jack MacLellan, F ($692,500); Alexander Radulov, LW ($984,200); Shea Weber, D ($7.5 million); Colin Wilson, LW ($875,000).