Allow me to preface this column by stating that I believe the Flyers have no urgent need to add a defensemen. Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, and Braydon Coburn are more than capable of shouldering the load with the likes of Marc-Andre Bourdon, Kevin Marshall, and Erik Gustafsson eating up some minutes as well. However, if the Flyers do, indeed decide to pursue a defender at some — the trade deadline seems to be the most realistic option — then Ryan Suter could be the primary target for the Flyers.
The 26-year-old defender for the Nashville Predators comes from a strong hockey pedigree (his father, Bob, was on the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 Olympic hockey team, his uncle, Gary, had a solid NHL career starting with a Calder Trophy for the Flames in 1986, and Ryan himself played on the 2010 Olympic hockey team). Suter is entering the prime of his career and, at a cap hit of $3.5 million, the Flyers wouldn’t have to dismantle the team like they might to acquire someone like Shea Weber.
If the Predators believe they will be in the hunt for the playoffs, they will be reluctant to part with him. However, Nashville is a low-budget team with a number of key players to re-sign, including both Suter and Weber. After handing down a lengthy and costly contract extension to goaltender, Pekka Rinne (7 years, $49 million), Suter could very well be the odd man out once Weber, the team’s top priority, is re-signed. Additionally, Suter will become a free agent this season and could very well test the market, and the Predators could get nothing in return from him.
Paul Holmgren and Predators GM, David Poile, have a well-established relationship and a sizable history of trades between the two teams. Undoubtedly, the two GMs will have a few conversations at some point this season.
The Flyers could offer affordable, high-ceiling offensive prospects — an area where the Predators could use some help — and even a defensive prospect or draft picks, all of which the Predators would seek in exchange for the upper-echelon defensemen that the Flyers need. (Side note: Acquiring him during the season would give the Flyers time to sign him to an extension before he reaches free agency.)
Of course, Suter is not the only fish in the sea and the Predators don’t seem to be chomping at the bits to make a deal but, of all the options that the Flyers could target, Suter may be the most reasonable and, considering the relationship between the two teams and that each has assets that the other could use, he also might be the most realistic.