The Nashville Predators are going to find themselves in a delicate situation July 1.
The start of free agency is likely to have an impact on the franchise and it's not going to be a good one. Defenseman Ryan Suter, the Preds' No. 2 defenseman behind Shea Weber, is looking for a major salary upgrade during the free agency signing period. While New Jersey forward Zach Parise is likely to be the top free-agent target, Suter should be right behind.
Suter can both carry the puck and shoot it. He's not going to challenge Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara like Weber does, but Suter has an excellent shot. Suter scored 7 goals and 39 assists in 2011-12. He's also a solid positional defender, who finished with a plus-15 rating last year.
The Predators are going to make an effort to re-sign him, but published reports indicate that he will be pursued aggressively. Suter has said that he wants to stay in the Western Conference, but there is at least one Eastern Conference team that is likely to put on a strong push.
The Pittsburgh Penguins already made a big splash on the trade market by moving center Jordan Staal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek. It seems likely that the moves were made largely to clear cap space so they could go after Parise and Suter. They have strong connections to both players.
Who Will Ryan Suter sign with?
Sidney Crosby and Parise would combine to form one of the most dynamic pairings in recent memory. Both are highly motivated superstars who play with an edge and want to put the puck in the net. However, general manager Ray Shero was the Preds' assistant general manager in Nashville when Suter when he was in Nashville and the two know each other well, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
However, Suter's preference to play in the Western Conference may make Pittsburgh more difficult to sell. That's why Shero may not just depend on his previous relationship with with Suter to entice him to Pittsburgh. He is rumored to be putting together a package to get the Preds to move his right to the Penguins.
The Flyers are another Eastern Conference team that has an interest in Suter, but he reportedly does not want to play with them, according to CSNPhilly.com. The Flyers added to their defense by trading James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn, but Paul Holmgren still wants to do more.
The Detroit Red Wings figure to make a big push for Suter. Future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom recently retired and the Red Wings could use a stud defenseman to at least partially fill his shoes. It seems clear that the Red Wings will go after Suter with a big barrel of money.
The Minnesota Wild also appear to have a big interest in going after Suter. They are also likely to make a push for Parise, a Minnesota native. But they have needed a big-time defenseman since they traded Brett Burns a year ago. Radio station KFAN said on its "Wildblog" that Chuck Fletcher covets a player who can anchor the blue line for them.
Update: Thursday, June 28 at 12:55 p.m. ET
Sidney Crosby will sign a 12-year contract extension with the Penguins July 1, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The new deal reportedly will pay Crosby $104.4 million over its term.
That will give the Penguins a salary-cap hit of $8.7 million per year. That will not hurt the Penguins when it comes to making an offer to Suter, the top propect among defensemen in this year's free-agent class.
If the Penguins are successful in landing Suter, head coach Dan Bylsma might choose to pair him with Kris Letang, the team's best blueliner.