Monday, 16 April 2012
04/16/12 Can The Predators Afford Suter?
Alexander Radulov wasn't brought back to Nashville to play defense, but his return - among other things - will have some interesting consequences for the Predators. There could be some real difficulty in keeping that stud defense together.
The Predators are near the bottom of the league in payroll at the moment, despite the massive $7.5 million contract they gave Shea Weber. Things appear to be even better for the Preds after this season, as more than $32 million in cap space will be open. The trouble is that only 12 players are under contract for next season, and there are some players on the roster who will need big raises. Assuming that Radulov stays in Nashville, his presence creates a whole new wrinkle.
Part of the reason that Radulov bolted for the KHL was that he was giving the Predators some quality hockey for just $918,578 on his entry level deal - a deal that is still valid until the end of this year. He still has a contract for next season in the KHL that is worth $5 million, so the Predators are going to have to compete with that salary if they expect to keep him in the NHL. For a team lacking any real offensive stars, retaining Radulov is likely to be a priority.
So what's the big deal?
CapGeek projects the Predators to have $32,330,833 in space next season, which includes Pekka Rinne's new $7 million deal. Shea Weber will once again need a new contract, and because he is an RFA his Qualifying Offer can be no less than the $7.5 million he brought in this year. That leaves $24,830,833 in space. Alexander Radulov will need a contract of at least $5 million, which leaves $19,830,833. Ryan Suter actually played more than Shea Weber this season, and it will be a relatively simple matter for his agent to argue that he is just as important to the team as Weber is. Even if his contract comes in at $6 million per season (a $2.5M raise and $1.5M less than Weber's cap hit), that leaves Nashville with $13,830,833 in cap space.
Forwards Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, as well as Paul Gaustad, Colin Wilson, and Jordin Tootoo would still be unsigned and they combined for $11,025,000 in cap hits this year. Defensemen Hal Gill, Francis Bouillion and Jack Hillen each need new deals, as does backup goaltender Anders Lindback. Together, the unsigned forwards, defense and goaltender listed here account for $16,150,000, and that number is based on their current salaries and not bringing any potential raises into the picture.
Just to keep it all together the Predators are going to have to do some maneuvering, and even then they'll be a very high spending team. Their internal budget is thought to be in the mid-$50 million range, so for them to get up to $64 million in spending would be a stretch.
It seems unlikely that the Nashville Predators will be able to spend such a huge amount on two defenders next season, especially with youngsters Jon Blum, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm all on inexpensive entry level deals, along with Alexander Radulov requiring a raise. It would therefore be surprising if the Predators don't see some movement on the back end. Every attempt will be made to lock up Shea Weber long term, but if they can't do that it wouldn't be out of the question to move him for a massive return. More likely, though, would be for the Preds to trade Ryan Suter's rights to a team that is interested in signing him. Would the Oilers be such a team?
Regardless of the outcome of these playoffs, it would be very surprising to see both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber back in Nashville next season.