Washington Capitals Trade Speculation: Is Ryan Suter a Target for the Caps?

Jake WareCorrespondent IIIDecember 29, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  Ryan Suter #20 of the Nashville Predators in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on January 18, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Predators defeated the Coyotes 5-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Through 35 games of the 2011-12 NHL season, the perennial Cup-contender Washington Capitals sit at 22nd in the league, two points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot with an awful 18-15-2 record.

The Caps, who have already fired former head coach Bruce Boudreau in an effort to turn their fortunes around, have struggled badly this season, leading to reports that their general manager is lining up a major trade to try to shake the team up.

If you had to pinpoint one area where the Caps need to improve, you would choose defense in a heartbeat. Only nine teams have given up more goals this season, with the Caps having been dented 106 times at an average of 3.03 goals per game.

Considering the fact that last season's average was 2.40, it is clear that a move to improve the defense needs to be made.

There are a lot of forwards rumored to be on the NHL trade block, but the market for top-quality defensemen is a little thinner. One name that has been tossed around a lot is that of Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter. Suter is a good bet to become a free agent this summer with the Predators having already re-signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a $7-million contract and having Suter's partner, Shea Weber, next on the list.

The Predators will be reluctant to let Suter, who has established himself as one of the NHL's premier defensemen in recent seasons, leave for nothing. They should look to cash-in on him before the February 27 trade deadline.

Suter is an all-action two-way defenseman who excels on the special teams. Through 37 games this season, the Madison, Wisconsin, native has five goals and 24 points, good for sixth among NHL defensemen. His 26:57 time-on-ice per game ranks second among all NHL players behind only Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers; the Caps' top minutes-logger is Dennis Wideman at an average of 23:51 per game.

The 6'1", 195 lbs would cost the Caps a lot, but his status as a pending unrestricted free agent will lower his price significantly. The Predators are adamant that they will manage to re-sign him, but at the right price, they will undoubtedly let him leave.

The Predators would, without a doubt, ask for Alexander Semin in return. Though he rightfully has a lot of value to the Caps, he would be lost in any deal with Nashville, who sit 16th in the NHL in goals-scored with their alarming lack of true goal-scoring wingers.

With some key defensemen injured, including all-star Weber, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, the Preds would likely want blue-line help as well.

A deal that would send Alexander Semin, Jeff Schultz and a middling prospect or mid- to late-round draft pick to the Predators, in exchange for Ryan Suter, is a move that would certainly benefit the Caps.

A blueline corps that consists of Karl Alzner, John Carlson, John Erskine, Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Ryan Suter and Dennis Wideman is a strong one, especially with the potential partnership of Green and Suter leading the way.

With the acquisition of the American Olympian, the Caps' core would get the desired shake-up, and the team would have a new look.

This could be the trade that George McPhee is looking for.


Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95