Let's continue kicking the Free Agent tires, shall we?
2011 Cap Hit: $3,500,000
2012 Status: UFA
The best player not named Parise on draft day will be Nashville Predators' defenseman Ryan Suter. Suter will be a rabidly pursued target by a host of teams, which means he won't likely be signing with the
tight wad fiscally conservative Colorado Avalanche. Add that to the fact the Avs re-signed Shane O`Brien today and Ryan Wilson not long before that, and you have a logjam on the Avs' blueline - albeit a logjam of mediocrity, with no player matching the proven skill set of Ryan Suter. Depth is good, but you still need a bonafide #1 pairing.
Could the Avs benefit from Ryan Suter? Absolutely. He's more than solid in his own zone, puts up consistent quality numbers offensively, can eat a ton of minutes, and is only 27. Suter is from Madison, Wisconsin, and as a fellow American who was also a high draft pick (#7 overall in 2003), he'd serve as an excellent mentor, and a formidable pairing with, countryman Erik Johnson. The addition of Suter would take pressure off of EJ as he would not be expected to carry the entire future of Colorado defense on his spasming back. That would allow O`Byrne and Hejda to continue to play the shut down role and penalty killing duo, while opening the bottom pairing up to be any combination of Hunwick, Elliot, Barrie, Wilson, O'Brien, or some other UFA. The Avs also don't have anyone in the pipeline that projects to be a top pairing shut down guy with offensive upside, so if they want a sexy package like that, they'll have to pay for it.
The Avs have the cash to match any offer Suter could receive from another team, but if they get into a bidding war, it is sure to be an overpayment. No question Suter is top tier talent, but how much did he benefit from hiding behind the behemoth shadow of Shea Weber and cleaning up the garbage? Whoever signs Suter on July 1st is going to find out. Suter's also coming off his best season statistically, so that'll raise his pay grade ceiling even higher, but he's still never scored more than 8 goals or 46 points. Is that worth $7 million a season?
And don't count out Suter re-signing with Nashville, where he was drafted and has played his entire career. The Preds have improved the last few seasons and are a legitimate cup contender. As of this morning they also have the most cap space in the league, so don't rule out Nashville extending a large chunk of change to keep the league's best D-pairing intact.
Rumors & Gossip: The Pittsburgh Penguins have all but humped Suter's leg raw in their openness about pursuing the coveted D-man. The Red Wings have also let it be known that they will aggressively go after Suter - potentially as a replacement for Nick Lidstrom (if such a thing exists), but Suter has said money isn't the only issue. He wants to win and he wants a nice city with decent weather and the great outdoors (so... Nashville?). That rules out Detroit *cue toilet flush*.
My Take: Stop dancing in the clouds. The Avs will not be signing Suter on July 1st or any time soon. Suter is going to get an inflated contract from a team that doesn't mind shelling out the greenbacks. Those likelihoods disqualify the Avalanche from contention. Everything we know about Sherman and Enos suggests that signing the high-priced Suter is not an option, but if management is serious about the rebuild and taking the next step to make a run in the post-season, the addition of Suter would shore up the defense immediately. Pile that onto the blueline logjam and bringing in Suter just doesn't seem a tenable option. What the Avs really need is a goalscoring winger. The D was decent last year, the forward corps not so much.
Plea: You can't put a price on winning. So Avs, please break the bank. Sign a big names. Sign two. Just sign a high caliber all star type (since there's so many available at bargain prices). Lacroix style!