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Ryan Suter and the Devils

I'd be pretty happy if he stayed in Nashville. Or went to Detroit.
I'd be pretty happy if he stayed in Nashville. Or went to Detroit.

Because this is a Devils blog, we've spent a lot of time talking about Zach Parise and free agency. While Parise's future is very important for the Devils, I'd like to take a moment to talk about Ryan Suter, the other big free agent available come July 1st. There's one difference between the other free agents and Ryan Suter however- he's friends with Zach Parise. Okay maybe not all of them (a certain crybaby for instance), but there's been a lot of talk about the friendship between the two being a selling point for Suter. Of course, friendship would be the least of a team's concern when signing Suter, as he's an elite defenseman.

With that being said, there has been quite a bit of discussion about Ryan Suter and the Devils amongst Devils fans. A lot of Devils fans are pro-Suter, simply because he'd make the team better. Others don't exactly feel the same way about Suter, and some (namely myself) don't want Suter to sign here. While i'm not too fond of the whole idea of Suter signing with the Devils, it has to be discussed.

Suter and Parise

I'm not too sold on the whole friendship thing. Hockey players aren't like say... basketball players, which some people are trying to allude to. It's a factor, but is it the deciding factor? Bryan Reynolds over at Hockey Wilderness provides us with an interesting take on this scenario:

The story uses an ancient event from 11 years ago to build the case that Parise and Suter and meant to be together, a time when both players were on the US National team in the U-18 World Championships. This argument carries about as much weight as Pierre McGuire saying the Wild traded for Tom Gilbert because he and Suter went to the University of Wisconsin together. There is a way to tie almost any two NHLers together. It's not like the hockey world is a tight knit community or anything. Oh. Wait.

While the article in general is more of a fisking of another article, what Reynolds is trying to say in the quoted text is that this is all stupid conjecture and it should all be taken with a grain of salt. While it does seem like it's something that could happen, it's probably not going to be the case. Lots of hockey players are friends with each other. Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora are friends. Was Elias the sole cause of Lou offering Sykora a tryout contract last fall? Probably not. If anything I'd probably take the part about those two being friends with a grain of salt. If Lou Lamoriello wants to sign Ryan Suter he's doing it because he feels that Suter can improve his team, not because he wants to bring two friends together.

The Cost

It's obvious Suter's going to make a lot of money. He should and could be one of the highest paid defensemen in the NHL, if not the highest paid (well, assuming he makes more than $12 mil next season. Side note- look at the highest paid defenseman next season. Hilarious) defenseman in the NHL next year. The good news is that the Devils have cap space to sign him. The bad news for the Devils is they're probably not going to be able to give him a ton of money in the first year, especially when you consider that Ilya Kovalchuk will make $11 million next season.

With regards to how much Suter could be making, I don't think it's very cost effective. Sure, he's way better than any defenseman on the Devils right now, but would you rather the Devils spend around $7-8 million on one defenseman or spend around $6 million on a single defensive unit (Fayne and Greene)? It's more cost effective to spend less money on two good defensemen in my opinion.

Do the Devils Need Suter?




The Devils Don't Need Suter

The Devils problems in the finals didn't stem from the Kings dominating them offensively. With the exceptions of games three and 6, they were able to keep it close. The biggest problem in the finals was Kovalchuk's injury (and the other Devils who were probably injured), which more or less affected the team's ability to score goals. The Devils problem wasn't that they needed an elite defenseman, it was that they needed their team to be healthy. Sure, Andy Greene and Mark Fayne aren't exactly "elite" defensemen, but it's not like those two are the cause of the team's problems.

Another thing to consider is the Devils young defensemen. While signing Suter would be good now, you have to keep in mind that any contract over 5 years (and more likely, a long term deal) would mean that the Devils are paying for maybe 2-3 years of his prime and a few years of a declining player. On the other hand, if the Devils don't sign Suter and give more minutes to say, Adam Larsson, they could have a defenseman entering his prime 5 years from now, and save a lot of money doing so. If Larsson doesn't pan out to be an elite defenseman? They're probably going to have another serviceable defenseman like Fayne or Greene, except younger. This could also apply to other young defensemen like Jon Merrill, Alexander Urbom, Eric Gelinas or Reece Scarlett.

What i'm trying to say is that while the Devils can sign Suter, it's not necessary. An all-star defenseman would be great, but the Devils have other organizational issues to deal with- like the inevitable goaltending problems when Marty retires and the lack of high-end forward prospects (which is somewhat problematic seeing as Elias and Zubrus aren't getting any younger) is a serious concern. At this point, Suter's just an unnecessary, expensive luxury.