There was no doubt that veteran defenseman Ryan Suter was going to be a hot commodity on the free agent market after being bought out by the Minnesota Wild. While fair for the Wild to be hesitant about paying the 36-year-old over $7.5MM for four more seasons, especially with cap and Expansion Draft concerns compounding the issue, Suter’s buyout is not an indictment on his play. Suter showed some decline this season, seeing a 13-year low in time on ice and points per game. However, those marks were still impressive at 22:11 per night and an 82-game pace of 28 points. Add in his invaluable experience and leadership and Suter is one of the more valuable names available on the open market.
Two teams who just recently battled in the postseason, the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, are back at it off the ice, as The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa reports that the clubs are competing for Suter’s services. Boston has been looking for a competent top-pair defenseman who can skate with Charlie McAvoy for several years and that weakness was further exposed this season with the departure of Zdeno Chara. The Islanders just traded away the veteran leader of their defense and a top-four left-hander as well in Nick Leddy. Both contenders could use Suter in a major way and each seem like attractive landing spots for the veteran.
Surprisingly, both teams can engage in a bidding war for Suter as well. The Bruins were under the salary cap this season right up until acquiring Taylor Hall at the trade deadline. Even after re-signing Hall, the Bruins still have their two largest contracts – that of David Krejci and Tuukka Rask – coming off the books this summer. Both could re-sign, but neither at the full amount, leaving more than enough space to add Suter at his asking price. Meanwhile, the Islanders have gone from cap crisis to comfortable flexibility in no time, with Leddy, Andrew Ladd, and Jordan Eberle all out the door, leaving behind newfound space.
While New York and Boston may be in the lead in the race for Suter, Shinzawa notes that they are not alone. The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars are also considered to be contenders for the veteran, each looking to replace a recent departure on the left side, Ryan Graves and Jamie Oleksiak respectively. There are certainly other team in the mix as well. Where Suter ultimately lands could be a domino that impact the rest of the free agent blue line market.