Suter's decision to sign with Minnesota stuns, stings Predators

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 12:49pm

Free agent defenseman Ryan Suter’s decision to sign with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday did more than cast a pall over the Nashville Predators.

It raised serious questions about the business side of things and exactly what it will take for the local franchise to attain and sustain status as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

After all, the long-held belief was that the difference between now and the early years of the franchise is the commitment and wherewithal of the current ownership group led by Tom Cigarran. For the first time, general manager David Poile had the opportunity to spend all the way to the salary cap and had a player, Suter, who was worth the cost.

Instead, the 2003 first-round draft choice signed with the Wild, which currently is owned by original Nashville owner Craig Leipold.

That’s the same Craig Leipold who often made the Predators look like a bargain basement operation during his time here, who ordered a pre-sale salary dump in 2007 that sent the likes of goalie Tomas Vokoun, left wing Scott Hartnell and defenseman Kimmo Timonen elsewhere just as they entered the prime of their respective careers.

“The disappointment for me comes in the reason for [Suter’s] final decision,” general manager David Poile said in a conference call Wednesday morning. “If you had told me, like in the old, old days with Timonen and Hartnell, they went to Philadelphia because we could not afford them. This was not a case of money. If you told me our franchise wasn’t tracking well, that our ownership wasn’t in a good place, that we were a team that had never made the playoffs — those were things I couldn’t fight off.

“But everything we talked about [with Suter] we were, we are or did. From that standpoint, it’s very disappointing.”

Citing family reasons, Suter accepted a 13-year offer from the Wild on Wednesday morning. He said it came down to a choice between Nashville, Minnesota and Detroit but also indicated that he considered Minnesota an option from the get-go.

Zach Parise, the top forward available and a close friend of Suter’s, also opted to sign with the Wild, also for 13 years not long after.

“This is a great day in the history of the Minnesota Wild,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said in a statement. “We are extremely excited to add the collective skill, experience and character of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to an already promising roster. We view this as a rare opportunity for us to transform our franchise by adding two marquee players, who are both in the prime of their careers, at the same time.

“I am grateful to Zach and Ryan and I am also thankful for the substantial commitment and support of Craig Leipold throughout this process.”

They join a club that acquired defenseman Tom Gilbert, a friend and former college teammate of Suter’s, at the February trade deadline.

Minnesota also has left wing Dany Heatley, the second overall pick in the 2000 draft and another former player at Wisconsin, and goalie Niklas Backstom on its roster. Thus, the Wild suddenly look like an upper echelon team in terms of talent.

The Predators are looking at other options.

“Ryan Suter is a hard player to replace,” Poile said. “It’s a team sport, and we’ll find a way. … We have to move on to Plan B. We would like to get a defenseman to replace Ryan. It could come as a free agent. It could come through a trade. I want to get the right player, right fit.”

Poile said he was “surprised” by the outcome.

He estimated that he had 20 to 40 conversations with Suter over the past year in regard to a long-term contract. He even said that, according to his notes from a November discussion, Suter said he intended to re-sign with the Predators, heretofore, his only NHL team.

On Sunday, the first day of the free agent signing period, Poile offered a 13-year package of his own.

“He told me that our offer was substantial,” Poile said. “It was not about the money when it came to the final decision. We did not get a chance to make a counter-offer or anything like that. He did not want that. So it was clearly not about the money.

“… It would be an understatement to say that the Nashvile Predators are disappointed at this time.”

12 Comments on this post:

By: WickedTribe on 7/4/12 at 11:33

Wow, I wonder what his objective was in choosing the worst team out of his four choices. I guess being "number one defender" on the team really is his biggest concern.

By: Heat Lightnin on 7/4/12 at 12:58

I can't see how the Predators could have done any more to get him to stay here. They even traded away picks last year to get players for the playoff push, in hopes of keeping Suter here. I think he wanted to head back to his home country the whole time, and was just fooling with us.
This may be an opportunity to sign Shea Weber to a long-term deal. If he decides to leave next year because of this, the Preds will be in big trouble!

By: Bellevue on 7/4/12 at 1:27

Generally speaking, kind of like a nice guy (The Predators) with handsome looks, good job and a great personality who gets turned down for a date ((Suter). What gives?

Specifically speaking, in most every case such as this, there is a deep under lying issue involved.

By: Rasputin72 on 7/4/12 at 5:00

This will turn out to be a blessing for those of us who do not want to shell out any more money to keep ice hockey in this town. For the ice hockey fanatics I would not worry past bedtime as ice hockey players come and go. The secret is to get one that wants to live in Nashville,Tennessee.

I think the heat probably influenced Suter to go to Minnesota.

I know that having homes in Florida,Nashville and the mountains of North Carolina have certainly made life much better for me.

By: parnell3rd on 7/4/12 at 9:44

Show me the money!!!!

By: jrbbg on 7/5/12 at 7:46

It's a vote of no confidence in Trotz system of defense first. He's great at getting journeymen to overachieve but we saw this year that the system doesn't produce enough offense and offensive zone time to take the pressure off defenders and win late round playoff games. Weber knows this and that is why he hasn't signed. It's not about the money or the city. The team needs offensive creators and finishers that produce in the clutch and keep opponents honest.

By: shoreg on 7/5/12 at 8:22

I've known he was leaving since they interviewed him right after we lost in the playoffs. He was clearly unhappy with the management and how things had been handled. At the time I wondered if it was about the decsion on Rads, but looking back I think it had been building for a while. Bottom line, you donlt want a player that doesn't want to be on your team, no matter how good he is. Do I think he strung the Preds along, yes. Is that good, no, but he had the power to do so, and now we need to move forward and work very hard to keep Weber. Suter has only played for the Preds. This is kind of like breaking up with your first real boyfriend to see what else is out there. I wish him well, but fior the life of me cannot figure out why he chose Minnesota...other than Parise & family. Maybe thats enough, but I am still shaking my head. I agree with jrbbg, I think our system breaks down in a playoff scenario, which had to also have been part of it.

By: Jughead on 7/5/12 at 11:29

All the Preds haters need to find something useful to do with their time. SUter is from that area, and his wife is from Minnesota. H e wants to be near home for the rest of his career.

It was not the money, or a statement about Nashville. It's about a dude wanting to be able to see his family on a regular basis.

Sheesh...

By: Jughead on 7/5/12 at 11:31

Note to Preds haters: there are plenty of Titans tix available. You'll be more happy watching football.

By: sharko20 on 7/5/12 at 12:47

I don't see anyone here saying they hate the Preds other than Rasp and his comments are predictable. Just giving their opinion on the team.

The question is why didn't Poile read the tea leaves correctly? The signs were there that he wanted to play in his wife's hometown, with his close friend Zach and near his Wisconsin farm. Suter could have been more forthcoming about his plans, but then that would have meant he would have been traded during the season. He wanted and managed to avoid that scenario.

Hindsight is 20/20.

By: sharko20 on 7/5/12 at 12:49

I forgot to add that by playing the UFA game it drove the price up for his services. Good planning on Suter and his agents part.

By: Jughead on 7/5/12 at 12:59

Sign Weber, use Suter's money to sign two defensemen short-term. Then look for a big name to replace Suter permanently.