The news recently broke that the Minnesota Wild have bought out defenseman Ryan Suter, along with forward Zach Parise. The pair are free agents and will be available to sign anywhere on July 28. I think the Pittsburgh Penguins could really improve with the addition of Suter, and believe they should be in the discussion for him.
Likely a Cheap Contract
With Suter already earning $110 million over the course of his NHL career, and him being on the Wild’s payroll for years to come, I doubt he is thinking about money at this very moment, and rather shifting his focus towards finding a contending team to win the Stanley Cup with, which I believe the Penguins possess.
Obviously, I would expect there to be multiple suitors for Suter, many of whom could outbid the Penguins. However, I don’t know if many contending teams can offer him a top-4 role on one of the best teams in the league like Pittsburgh can. I project him signing a one-year deal at around $1.5 million.
I’m assuming if the Penguins were to get Suter, either Marcus Pettersson or Mike Matheson would be shipped out, leaving Suter to slot into a second-pairing role with John Marino or perhaps Cody Ceci. This would be an instant upgrade to what the team had on that pairing this season.
He’s Still Very Good
This season was rough for Suter production-wise, as he registered just 19 points through 56 games, on pace for 27 points in a full season, his worst since the 2006-07 season with the Nashville Predators. However, if you take a look at his underlying numbers, he still had a very good season and has been tremendous practically his entire career.
During this past season, Suter had eight goals above replacement (GAR) and 1.4 wins above replacement (WAR), both of which are well above average for a regular player. He still has the ability to be a third-option defenseman on a contending team; even if the production was lackluster, it’s an outlier and will almost surely improve in the coming season.
Since the 2016-17 season, Suter has 33 goals and 205 points through 367 games played, along with 49.1 GAR and nine WAR. He has been so consistently good and would be a major upgrade from anybody not named Brian Dumoulin on the Penguins’ left side.
He Costs No Assets
Just recently the hockey world watched the Edmonton Oilers give up a third-round pick and young defenseman Caleb Jones for Duncan Keith, who at this stage in his career is worse than Suter, and being paid $5.5 million with a full no-movement clause.
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Comparing Suter and Keith, it’s easy to see how much better the one is from the other. Suter’s worst season since 2016-17 still manages to be better than Keith’s best in that same time frame in terms of GAR and WAR. He also brings that very same “veteran pedigree” that the Oilers claimed they were paying for.
The fact that the Penguins can get such a high-impact player for much cheaper than what some players are going for on the free agent and trade market just shows how you cannot pass on this opportunity. If they don’t go for Suter, I don’t think we’ll see them in on any other defensemen, as the majority of them will be out of their price range.
Now, is it likely the Penguins get Suter? I wouldn’t bet money on it. I think he’ll go to the Vegas Golden Knights or Philadelphia Flyers. However, I made my case, and I think if he does sign in Pittsburgh on July 28, every single fan should be ecstatic.