The NHL trade deadline came and went in February, and the Nashville Predators not only held onto Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but also picked up some players. The non-movement of their star defensemen and the addition of players for the stretch run signaled that the Predators management team was serious about a run toward the Stanley Cup in 2012.
That run stalled in the Western Conference semifinals when the Predators lost in five games to the surprising Phoenix Coyotes, a team that would fall in the conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings.
One can imagine the deflated looks that crossed the faces of the Predators brass as the team shook hands with the Coyotes and headed back to their dressing room, far short of the Cup they had all desired.
You can bet that one of the first thoughts that popped into the minds of the management team after that loss was, "What now?"
The team put all their eggs in the "win now" basket, and it fell short. In the process, it cost them dearly, as one of their coveted defensemen is more than likely on his way out of Nashville in the very near future, while the team will receive nothing in return but the lingering thoughts of "what if?"
What if the Predators would have traded Ryan Suter when they had the chance?
Suter is going to test free agency, and the likelihood of the Predators retaining him—even if they wanted to—is slim. The money that Suter, the premier defenseman available in this year’s free-agency class, will command, will prove daunting for the Predators—they just won’t be able to match what the deep-pocketed NHL clubs will throw Suter’s way.
It’s easy to say that they should have traded Suter when they had the chance, but the team really should have traded him when they had the chance.
Sure, keeping him around for the playoffs gave everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling, but the reality was the Predators had only the slimmest of chances to win the Stanley Cup—to try and sell their fanbase on the fact that they were a true contender was disingenuous.
Suter will now walk away and the team will receive nothing in return. The Predators made a sucker's bet by holding onto Suter. Watching him sign with another team is the payoff on that bet.