If the Nashville Predators plan on keeping defenceman Ryan Suter beyond this season, they may have to take their chances at re-signing him after the trade deadline.
At the NHL All-Star Game's Media Day, Suter told reporters he doesn't think he will sign a new deal with the Predators before the Feb. 27 deadline.
"I feel it would be more of a distraction than anything," Suter said. "We've never had a time line or deadline. We're just focusing on winning. Everything else will take care of itself.''
TSN Hockey Insider and ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun asked Suter if he was saying he won't sign before the trade deadline.
"I don't see it being a benefit by hurrying up and trying to get something done," Suter confirmed. "I'm a Nashville Predator until July. I will focus on making my team better."
In 47 games this season, Suter has scored five goals and added 23 assists for 28 points with a plus-minus rating of +7.
Still, the Predators find themselves in a difficult situation regarding Suter's future. Slated to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1, the team must decide what lengths they are willing to go to in efforts to lock the All-Star blueliner up long-term.
LeBrun stated that Suter's comments today would "be taken by [Predators general manager] David Poile as a difficult hurdle. Now he has to make a difficult decision. Do you trade Ryan Suter? Or, do you keep him because your team is trying to win a championship this year?”
The Predators are currently in fifth place in the Western Conference with 64 points. However, the team is in the thick of one of the tightest division races in the league. The Predators sit just three points back of the Detroit Red Wings for first in the Central Division, and tops in the Western Conference. However, the team still sits behind St. Louis in the division and is equal in points to fourth place Chicago (though Nashville holds the edge in wins).
TSN Insider Bob McKenzie said that Suter's tactics may also be an attempt to gauge how serious management is about the team's playoff hopes.
"He's intimated that he wants to see what the Nashville Predators do between now and the deadline in terms of adding other components that would make the team that much stronger and show that they're legitimate contenders."
The Predators currently have the fourth-lowest salary cap commitment in the league, spending $49.84 million on its roster.
Weber is currently in the final year of a four-year contract he signed in 2008 with an annual average value of $3.5 million.
Predators captain Shea Weber will also become a restricted free agent this off-season after signing a one-year $7.5 million deal in August.