Nashville’s top-pairing blueline tandem of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are not only two of the NHL’s best defensemen, but they are also viable targets for a host of teams both this Summer and next.
Suter, an unrestricted free-agent this Summer, has been the subject of trade talk throughout the season, something that has only intensified as we continue to approach the trade deadline next month. Predators GM David Poile recently sent a message to his fellow GM’s confirming that Suter was in fact off the market at this time, though that is of course subject to change at any point between now and the deadline on February 27.
As for Weber, well, common sense suggests that the RFA-to-be is waiting on Suter’s decision before making his own. If the Predators are willing to show their commitment to winning this Summer, then it is certainly possible that both may follow goaltender Pekka Rinne in signing a long-term, big-money deal with the club.
But with that said, let’s take a look at what either half of the league’s best defensive pairing could bring to Broadway. After all, it’s fun to speculate, right?
I reached out to Section 303 writer Jeremy Gover to get his thoughts on which, if either, of the two Predators’ defensive lynchpins he feels would be the likeliest trade asset in the event that only one of them were to leave the club. I’d like to again thank Jeremy for his time, and of course his great insight from a Nashville perspective.
I wrote a blog a couple of weeks back floating the painful but necessary idea that Shea Weber should be shopped before Suter. The logic being that while Suter would command a heck of a lot in return, Weber would command a king’s ransom. He’s the superstar. He’s the Norris Trophy finalist. He’s the three-time All-Star. He’s the one whose shot breaks through nets. He’s the team captain. He’s the imposing physical force. And he’s the one who, sans an offer sheet, is locked up for one more season.
Weber’s cannon of a shot is perhaps the biggest asset of them all when speculating on a possible move to New York. The Rangers have set-up men (Richards, Del Zotto, Gaborik) that can pass the puck on the man advantage, but nobody that can get the puck from point to net consistently during that two-minute spell. Weber will shoot through bodies without hesitation. Hell, as Gover says, he’ll shoot through the net too. The powerplay has proven to be the Blueshirts’ Achilles heel for far too long now, and a deep run through the post-season may well be dependant on its success. Weber’s right-handedness, too, would benefit a team that has an abundance of top-four quality left-handers on the blueline.
Suter may not have the superstar marketability of Weber or the crunching one-timer, but he is the better defenseman in terms of playing in his own end and he remains a viable powerplay asset too. As Justin Bradford of Has Been Sports said to me last week, based on “defensive performance” Suter is the superior player, but that “ticket sales and marketability” weigh heavy in Weber’s favour. From a Rangers perspective, it’s hard to deny that Weber ticks more boxes in terms of what the Blueshirts require at this point, but Suter too would instantly become the best blueliner in New York.
With Suter reportedly taken off the table by Poile this week, I asked Gover how he sees things playing out with the Predators’ elite defensemen and whether he feels there will be a knock-on effect once the first move has been made.
I believe Weber is waiting for Suter to sign before he does. Suter is waiting to sign until Poile can prove that he can go out and get a goalscorer, making this team a contender for years to come. Poile is waiting for the market to allow for goalscorers (Bobby Ryan, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, etc) to become available. In short, the first domino is waiting to fall.
Though a top-six scoring left-winger may be the Rangers most pressing need at this point, their blueline depth and prospect pool may allow for a run at Suter were he to be made available either prior to the deadline or during the Summer. Weber would, as previously mentioned, command a sizeable return that Glen Sather probably isn’t willing to pay either now or in the immediate future, particularly as the Predators are a budget team that will likely want core players on affordable, longer-term contracts.
At this point, it’s a case of wait and see.