The retirement of Detroit Red Wings long-time cornerstone Nicklas Lidstrom has increased speculation the club will turn toward free agency and Nashville Predators blueliner Ryan Suter as a replacement.
Suter, 27, will be eligible for UFA status July 1 if he and the Predators fail to reach an agreement on a new contract. As Josh Cooper of the Tennessean pointed out, with Lidstrom gone, the Wings will be willing to pay whatever Suter wants if the blueliner hits the open market.
Though no one can fully replace Lidstrom on the Wings blueline, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan favorably compared Suter’s game to that of the now-retired Detroit captain and considers him the best potentially available defenseman in this summer’s free agent crop.
Money won’t be an object for the Red Wings. Once they re-sign restricted free agents such as Kyle Quincey, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, and promote promising young players Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith, Khan estimates they’ll have roughly $50 million invested in 21 players.
That would give them plenty of cap space not only to sign Suter, but also take a run at Suter’s close friend, New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise.
The Red Wings, however, won’t be the only club in hot pursuit of Suter July 1, as the Philadelphia Flyers, NY Rangers and Minnesota Wild could also jump into a bidding war for his services.
Most assume it’s a fait accompli Suter will join the Wings, but it’s by no means a certainty.
Cooper recently reported Suter’s agent would meet with Predators GM David Poile this week to open contract discussions, a positive step in the club’s efforts to re-sign him.
If Suter does join the Wings, he will face considerable pressure to fill Lidstrom’s skates in one of the most demanding markets in the league.
Cooper also noted the Predators appear to have more long-term potential than the aging Red Wings, who the Preds eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. This could have an impact on Suter’s plans.
Money won’t be the only determining factor for Suter. He would prefer to play the remainder of his career wherever he signs his next contract, plus he also wants to ensure his family’s happiness.
If the Wings fail to land Suter, they won’t find much in the UFA market to fill the void left by Lidstrom. Among the notables are Washington’s Dennis Wideman, Philadelphia’s Matt Carle, Ottawa’s Filip Kuba and Florida’s Jason Garrison.
Anaheim Ducks prospect blueliner Justin Schultz will become a UFA on July 1 if the Ducks fail to sign him. The Wings might have interest in landing Schultz, who turns 22 July 6, but wouldn’t expect him to jump into a top-pairing role.
With the playoffs drawing to a close and the draft weekend and free agency period fast approaching, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun speculated about potential moves by GM Bryan Murray.
Garrioch wondered if Murray would receive interest in goalies Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop from rival teams. Toronto, Columbus and Tampa Bay are believed in the market for goalie depth.
He listed Lehner among five candidates Murray could trade this summer, along with RFA left winger Nick Foligno, defenseman Sergei Gonchar, center Zack Smith and right winger Bobby Butler.
Murray’s plan for Lehner and Bishop is to have them compete for the backup role to starter Craig Anderson, with the loser being demoted to the farm team in Binghamton. It would be hasty to move either guy in the off-season, unless of course Murray gets an irresistible offer.
Murray’s priority is re-signing Norris candidate Erik Karlsson. Trading Gonchar, especially if Filip Kuba departs via free agency, would leave the Senators short on skilled experience on the blueline and put too much responsibility on the 22-year-old Karlsson to pick up the slack.
Foligno has developed slowly since his debut season in 2007-08, but at only 24, he showed significant signs of improvement, with career bests in assists (32) and points (47). It would be a risk to give up on him now.
Moving Smith isn’t likely unless they bring back Chris Kelly from Boston and on his own the 24-year-old wouldn’t fetch much of a return. Ditto for Butler, who had a poor follow-up to his 21 points in 36 games in 2010-11.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.