The Nashville Predators have won five straight and catapulted themselves back into the top eight of the Western Conference. Given the current playoff picture, Preds GM David Poile is going to have a heck of a decision to make prior to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 27, 2012.
Of course, we’re referring to defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. The former is a pending unrestricted free agent, the latter is restricted but could become UFA the following summer.
“Well, our first choice is to sign them,” Poile told the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently. “That hasn’t changed.”
And that would be the best-case scenario.
The worst case would be failing to get a long-term commitment out of Suter prior to the trade deadline, rolling the dice and keeping the duo for the stretch run, missing the playoffs and watching Suter walk away for nothing. Then Weber looks around, doesn’t see Suter and decides he’ll be moving on as well.
Just imagine for a moment if the worst case happened. Would the Preds even be close to a playoff team without Suter and Weber? How would their fans react to losing two of the most popular players in franchise history? Nashville does a great job selling hockey in a non-traditional market, but a winning team is a big part of that. Can you think of a franchise in a southern market that fills the building with a losing team? There isn’t one.
So let’s say Suter tells Poile before the trade deadline that he won’t be signing with the Preds – and that would be the gentlemanly thing for Suter to do if that’s what he decides. What does Poile do? If he can trade Suter and get a significant return – one that might make Weber think twice about leaving – he has to make that deal, right?
As Friedman writes, “Until one or both sign, this story isn’t going away. But Poile’s going to make us sit back and wait for the climax.”
(Gotta be a better way to say that.)