With just over one month until the start of NHL free agency, I figured this would be a good time to start profiling some of the best free agents that the Canucks may have their eye on. Today, lets take a look at Ryan Suter.
Over the last couple of seasons, Canucks nation has been scheming of ways to get their hands on Shea Weber. Maybe the Predators won’t be able to afford him? Maybe he’ll demand that he comes back to his home province. But it’s another all star Nashville Predators defenceman that every Canucks fan should have their eye on.
Unlike Shea Weber, Ryan Suter is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Even if Shea Weber is somehow available, you’ll have to rip your team apart to get him. To get Ryan Suter, all you need to give up is money.
Shea Weber is a better player than Ryan Suter, but not by much. Suter can do it all. He is a shutdown defenceman that can play big minutes and contribute offensively. He may be the #2 defenceman in Nashville, but he would be the #1 defenceman on most teams in the NHL. And he’s only 27 years old.
Suter averaged 26 minutes a game for the Preds last season. That’s well ahead of the time minute man on the Canucks and third in the NHL overall. Most of those minutes were played with Shea Weber, so some might suggest that his numbers were aided by that, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that Suter is the real deal.
Consider this: when in Nashville, Dan Hamhuis had trouble getting ice time because he played behind Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Dan Hamhuis is (in my mind) the Canucks best defenceman. Also consider that Suter was the shutdown defenceman for Team USA at the Olympics two years ago. And he’s a better player now.
So without a doubt, Mike Gillis should do whatever he can to convince Ryan Suter to play on the west coast. In Vancouver he would step in as the team’s number one defenceman right away. He would play big minutes against the other team’s top lines, penalty killing and on the power play. I invision pairing him with Dan Hamhuis, which would be one of the best shutdown pairings in the NHL.
The problem with signing Suter is that there are 29 other teams in the league that will want him also. If Suter doesn’t re-sign in Nashville (which is a possibility), he’ll likely want big money with a contender. The Canucks are a contender, with the ability to offer big money. If Vancouver has a chance to get Suter, they should worry about cap space later. Guys like Keith Ballard and Mason Raymond could be dispatched for nothing if need be.
The other problem with Suter is that unlike when the Canucks signed Dan Hamhuis two years ago, he isn’t a BC boy. If he wants to play close to home (he’s from Wisconsin), then there’s nothing the Canucks can do. But if he wants to win, I can’t think of too many other places that would be a better fit than Vancouver.
So how much money will Suter command? If I were to guess, I would say $6.5 million. Shea Weber is the highest paid defenceman in the league at $7.5 million, and there’s a handful of d-men that make more than $6 million. If Gillis can get him on a 5-6 year deal at under $7 million, I would do it. He is exactly the type of player the Canucks need, and if they have to overpay a little bit to acquire him, it’ll still be worth it.