2012 NHL Free Agents: Ryan Suter Would Be Smart to Test Free-Agent Waters

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2012 NHL Free Agents: Ryan Suter Would Be Smart to Test Free-Agent Waters
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I am all for team loyalty, and if Ryan Suter wants to return to the Nashville Predators—even at a discounted price—that's what he should do.

But not before he tests the free-agent waters. He owes it to himself to at least see how the market might shake out.

Now, I know that isn't what Predators fans want to hear. They want Suter to re-sign before he becomes a free agent on July 1st. They want the negotiations to be short and sweet, allowing the team plenty of time to concoct its offseason plan with its top priority already on board.

And Nashville fans should take solace in the fact that Suter's agent plans to meet with the Predators front office in the next week, according to Josh Cooper of The Tennessean:

Suter's agent, Neil Sheehy, said on Monday that he and Predators General Manager David Poile "plan on talking sometime this week." Poile is hoping for a meeting with Suter in the near future.

"I'm going to talk to Neil in the next couple of days to firm that up more," Poile said. "That's certainly the goal."

If Suter does hit the open market, he'll be the cream of this year's free agency crop. Already one of the game's best defensemen, he scored 46 points this season and was plus-15 for the year. He'll surely be courted by a number of teams.

But Suter is looking for more than just money. As he noted after the Predators were eliminated in the playoffs this year, a winning culture and stability are the most important factors in his decision (via Craig Custance of ESPN Insider):

"Wherever I sign, I want to be there for the rest of my career and that affects my family, my wife, my kid [and] if we have more kids," Suter told Cooper. "Everything plays into it."

Suter has consistently said that his decision will hinge on whether he believes that the Predators can consistently contend for a Stanley Cup. It doesn't bode well for his evaluation that this might have been their best team in franchise history and they couldn't get out of the second round.

Ryan Suter will return to Nashville.

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Among the teams that would have a shot at Suter, look for the Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and Philadelphia Flyers to be the top suitors, with another team or two to be determined joining the mix. 

My guess is he'll either remain with the Predators or join the young, promising core of the Philadelphia Flyers and anchor that team's defensive unit.

One way or another, he owes it to himself to test the market and make the best decision for he and his family, wherever he ends up.

Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets pack more punch than Junior dos Santos.

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