If you've spent any time looking ahead to July 1, you've probably noticed there aren't exactly a ton of big free agents out there.
When it comes to the media buzz, two guys are hogging most of the spotlight: forward Zach Parise of the Devils and Predators blueliner Ryan Suter. It's hard to figure out where either player will go, but perhaps Thursday's retirement of Red Wings all-everything defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom helps establish a favorite in the Suter Sweepstakes.
His offensive skills in Nashville never really came out, largely because he was overshadowed by dynamic Predators captain Shea Weber -- a restricted free agent. Suter has never posted more than eight goals in a season, though he's averaged more than 40 points per season in the last four years.
Detroit, however, might have the inside track thanks to the sales pitch available with Lidstrom gone. The Red Wings don't just need a defenseman. They need a No. 1. They need a guy who can play 25 minutes a game in the regular season, eating big-time minutes at even strength and on the penalty kill while playing a huge and vital role in the power play.
Those guys don't grow on trees, and while Suter isn't the kind of player who can step in and replace Lidstrom, it's not like Detroit is just going to find that guy anywhere. He doesn't exist. Signing Suter would likely take some pressure off Niklas Kronwall, who has shown plenty of offensive upside to go along with his big-hit ability.
Detroit won't have to worry about salary cap room. The Wings only have $44 million committed for next season, according to CapGeek. They could sign Suter and still make a serious play for Parise. Given Detroit's struggles to score at times during the season and again in the playoff series loss to Nashville, the argument exists for GM Ken Holland to go hard after both star free agents.
There won't be a lack of competition for Suter, who is likely to double his 2011-12 salary of $3.5 million.
As Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes, Suter is a highly-regarded player in the NHL, even if he hasn't been Nashville's No. 1 defenseman, and the Wild -- the team Russo covers -- aren't expected to let him go somewhere else easily.
The Wild may have an in -- Suter's wife hails from Bloomington. And maybe Tom Gilbert, a Madison resident like the Suters, can execute a sales pitch, too. There is no doubt the Wild believes Suter is a bona fide No. 1/2 defenseman, and I've talked to two NHL coaches this week that went on and on and on and on about how good Suter is and can be -- so much so, that I've bought in.
That said, given the role Detroit has available, the cap room that exists, and the tradition of that franchise (remember, Suter is very familiar with Detroit, having played against them so much as a member of a division rival and 2012 playoff opponent), that opportunity may trump any familial or emotional ties Suter has to Minnesota.
(Sadly, this could be the summer of pipe dreams for Wild fans. Parise is a Minnesota native who has plenty of family still in the state, but the competition for his services will be insane and include teams much closer to a Stanley Cup than the Wild are right now.)
Suter has a very important decision coming sometime on or after July 1, but it's safe to say he was watching closely Thursday when Lidstrom retired. It opened a door that not many NHL franchises can claim is open. At the end of it all, it might be too much opportunity -- combined with money -- for Suter to pass up.