The biggest name on the defensive end of the ice, Nashville's Ryan Suter, is set to attract much attention from the league's top teams as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
According to NBC Sports, GM Dave Polie has admitted that the team's star defenseman will be testing the market and the chances of the team retaining both him and his partner in crime, captain Shea Weber, are slim.
Potential suitors to acquire the 27-year-old have emerged in both the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, but will either of these two powerhouse squads be able to come away with the prize in Suter?
It seems both are likely candidates as they have freed up the necessary cap space to go out and make the kind of offers that Nashville wouldn't be able to match.
Suter has until July 1st to make up his mind on whether or not he wants to continue his career in the Music City; after that he has the options of negotiating with any other interested parties.
The fact of the matter is that he wants stability with a franchise that looks poised to contend for the Stanley Cup on a yearly basis.
"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." (via Craig Custance for ESPN Insider)
In the past seasons, Nashville has cast away former stars that the team decided not to overpay and deemed replaceable, yet Suter's restricted free-agent contract leaves the team with a limited amount of time to decide if they want to focus their efforts on retaining the contracts of multiple stars.
Should they not be able to come to an agreement with Suter, some very good teams are lurking in the background, with the cap space to spare, waiting to pounce.
Detroit finally has a very noticeable hole in the middle of their defense with the retirement of four-time Stanley Cup Champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom.
Suter would have quite some skates to fill if he took over for Lidstrom manning the Wings' blue line, but he would give the Wings the stability on defense that they have become so accustomed after 20 straight years of Lidstrom glory.
With about $20 million in cap space freed up, the Red Wings can offer the two biggest names on the free-agency market—Suter and New Jersey Devil captain Zach Parise—enormous paydays.
In an interview with the New Jersey Star Ledger, Parise has stated that even if he does in fact become unrestricted, the Devils aren't out of the mix and will be given their fair chance to make a pitch to re-sign him.
This should make the case of signing Suter all the more important if he doesn't re-sign with Nashville, because if the Red Wings fail to come away with signing a defenseman of his caliber, there is a chance they will slip from the elite status with a less impressive blue line.
GM Ken Holland is unable to talk about who he wants to go after, yet he has left the media with some ambiguous comments. As reported by Sports Illustrated:
“Everybody looks at the Red Wings and expects big splashes,” he said. “We have a lot of pieces in place and I like our team, but we need to make two or three moves through free agency or trades."
Hot on the Red Wings' tail in the Suter sweepstakes are the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that is looking to rebound by strengthening a defensive unit that was embarrassed in the first round of the playoffs by cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers.
The team has put themselves in a good spot to pursue Suter should he hit the market, as they freed up $6 million in cap space by trading away both Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek.
They could also free up additional space by dealing another defenseman in Paul Martin, however team sources cited by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have Sidney Crosby signing a massive deal to the tune of $9-10 million per season for a timetable of 10-13 years.
The Penguins have a very solid young core of players including Crosby, 2011-12 League MVP Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury that would be bolstered by the addition of another top defenseman.
Consider it highly likely that either of these two teams makes a run at Suter—but will they be the only ones to reach out to him?
The Star Tribune would beg to differ as the Wild have waited patiently for the July 1 deadline in an attempt to go out and acquire the necessary talent to strengthen a team that surprised a lot of fans this season.
While the Wild may have more funds than Pittsburgh, money isn't everything, and for Suter, stability and a chance to win is equally as important. I can't say I blame him.
He got a taste of what it is like to succeed on the journey to Lord Stanley's Mug, but will he actually be able to bring home the hardware with a team like the Predators or the Wild, or will he bolt for proven winners like the Penguins and the Red Wings?
Only time and figures will tell the story now as hockey fans anxiously await the July 1st unrestricted free-agent deadline that will set Suter free of Nashville.
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