David Poile reiterated Sunday afternoon that he is willing to go to great lengths in his efforts to re-sign free agent defenseman Ryan Suter.
Hours into the signing period, though, the Nashville Predators general manager made it clear that his patience already was running short.
“These deals are what teams are doing for their best players and we’re going to be competitive on terms and we’re going to be competitive on money,” he said. “We’ve done all the talking on the different situations. So it’s time to take it to another step.”
In recent days the Pittsburgh Penguins signed center Sidney Crosby to a 12-year, $104.4 million contract and the Los Angeles Kings locked up goalie Jonathan Quick with a 10-year, $58 million deal. Neither was on the verge of free agency.
According to Poile, Suter’s representatives never asked for a firm offer of the last year or so as the Predators repeatedly made known — publicly and privately — their desire to keep their first-round pick in the 2003 draft for the long-term. Instead, discussions focused on the direction and philosophy of the organization for which Suter has played his entire career.
“It’s getting to the point here and I just feel it’s probably time to really exactly carve out our position with their camp,” Poile said. “That’s probably going to be the next step and I’m probably going to make a firm offer to Ryan. I haven’t done that to this point, but I think that’s the proper thing to do.
“It’s a tough situation that we’re in. Ryan controls all the cards right now. If he comes back and signs with us that’s terrific, and we can live happily ever after. But we need to move this forward because there’s a couple other directions we may want to go if we knew that he wasn’t coming back. So I’m probably going to speed up the process.”
"I don't expect a quick decision," Suter's agent, Neil Sheehy, told The Associated Press via email.
The agent also told the AP that he fielded "countless phone calls, emails and messages" from teams expressing interest.
Poile's next move will include a long-term offer to Nashville captain and Suter defense partner Shea Weber, who currently is a restricted free agent and is on track for unrestricted free agency a year from now. Poile has said that deals for the two of them would have to be complementary given the limitations of the salary cap and the fact that goalie Pekka Rinne has a seven-year, $49 million contract that begins with the coming season.
Weber rejected a long-term deal from the club last summer, when he also was a restricted free agent.
“I want to include Shea in this process,” Poile said.
He added that he also has been in contact with the agent for Zach Parise, the top free agent forward on the market and a close friend of Suter’s.
Suter, 27, universally is considered the top defenseman available this year. His stance beginning with the All-Star break in January consistently has been that he wanted to get to free agency and explore his options. He also has indicated his willingness to revisit his options with the Predators before he signs with another team.
The Minnesota Wild said on their official Twitter account early Sunday that they had extended offers to both Suter and Parise. There also were reports that Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia and Carolina were in pursuit of both players.
All of that, no doubt, added to Poile’s anxiety and fueled his desire to get more aggressive in regard to the process.
“I am changing my position a little bit because I would like clarity sooner than later,” he said. “… It might not do any good because — again — he can do whatever he wants to do. I want to be crystal clear as to what level of commitment we’re going to make to him so that there’s no misinterpretation, whether it be length of contract or money.”
Nashville did accomplish one bit of business in the early hours of free agency when it signed goalie Chris Mason to a one-year, $1.25 million deal to serve as Rinne’s backup and to potentially lighten the workload of the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist.
“[Sunday] we needed to get a backup goalie and we got that done,” Poile said. “Everything else is kind of revolving around Suter as it has been. … If I have any ability [to do so] I’d like to resolve this early because there’s some other directions to go and we’re running out of options. I may not be able to affect that, but I need to do that.”