Chuck Fletcher signed Ryan Suter as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild way back in 2012. After Suter was bought out on Tuesday, could Fletcher sign Suter as a free agent again? The Philadelphia Flyers could be a logical landing spot for the veteran defenseman.
Both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed with the Wild on July 4th, 2012. Just over nine years later, they were both bought out on the same day. Both Parise and Suter are in the latter stages of their careers, but they might have some gas left in the tank. Parise has declined more than Suter, leaving the defenseman as an intriguing option in free agency.
Chuck Fletcher said on Monday that improving the Flyers’ goals against is the team’s top priority this offseason.
“To me, the number one priority is our goals against,” Fletcher said. “It was just ridiculous how many goals we gave up last year.”
Adding a top-four –– if not top-pair –– defenseman would go a long way in helping the Flyers’ defensive efforts. Could Ryan Suter be that guy?
Suter, 36, will hit the open market after being bought out by the Wild. He had a $7.538 million cap hit for the next four seasons. That hefty contract was the primary reason for Minnesota buying him out, not his level of play. He can still be a top-four defenseman.
Suter has averaged over 25 minutes per game in his career at a 25:02 ATOI clip. That’s been on the decline a bit these past few years with 22:11 in 2021 and 24:38 in the 2019-20 season. Prior to that, Suter averaged over 26 minutes per game from 2011 to 2018.
While Suter isn’t what he once was, he can still be a valuable contributor to most teams. The Flyers are one of them.
Are the Flyers a suitor for Suter?
Even with the Wild missing the playoffs in a few seasons, Suter kept his possession numbers up. His Corsi For Relative has been positive in the past seven seasons. On top of that, his Expected Goals For Relative has been positive in all but one of the seasons in his career. The veteran defenseman can still get the job done.
The left-handed Suter can play on both the left and right side. He’s played nearly 1,200 (1,198) NHL games over the course of 16 seasons: seven in Nashville and nine in Minnesota. Suter has also played in 83 playoff games: 34 in Nashville and 49 with the Wild.
The Flyers could certainly use that veteran experience after losing Matt Niskanen last offseason.
Suter’s fit with the Flyers
Niskanen helped Ivan Provorov have one of the best performances of his career in the 2019-20 season. Provorov greatly benefitted from the steady, consistent veteran presence that Niskanen brought. Suter could bring that as well if the Flyers wanted either him or Provorov to play on their off side.
Alternatively, Suter could be a great option to play on the left side with someone like Philippe Myers. That would probably only be the situation if the Flyers also signed another defenseman to play on the top pair with Provorov. If that does happen, the Flyers could be pretty strong down the left side with Provorov, Suter, and Travis Sanheim.
The question for the Flyers is if Suter will be interested in signing with them. He sees the position that the Flyers are in and may want to sign with a consistent contender instead. However, that’s where the Fletcher factor comes in.
The Fletcher factor
If Suter is open to playing in Philadelphia, he should move toward the top of their target list this offseason. The 36-year-old defenseman may only have a few good years left in him, however, so a short-term deal would make the most sense for the Flyers.
Some contract projections have Suter at around a $5 million cap hit for two or three years. If the Flyers lose Shayne Gostisbehere ($4.5 million for two seasons) in the Expansion Draft or move him in a trade, that’d open up the cap space for Suter. That’s a “trade” that the Flyers would happily make given the skillsets of Suter and Gostisbehere.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on the Suter situation as it unfolds. The Expansion Draft is just a week away with free agency two weeks away. For now, we can add Suter to the growing list of potential defensemen targets for Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers.
Photo: Lorie Shaull