Sunday, May 6, 2012

Free Agent Forecasting: Ryan Suter

Hmm...Interesting Combination
Cris Bournocle, AFP/Getty Images

The Wings need another defenseman. Ryan Suter just happens to be a defenseman. Reputation and hyperbole tell us that Suter's a good one too. Should and could the Wings sign him, and for how much?

Read on to find out.

Statistical Breakdown

Basic Stats

  • Suter played in 79 games this season, and his average ice time was 26:30. He had 7 goals and 38 assists for a total of 46 points. Had 3 powerplay goals and 1 shorthanded goal. Took 134 shots. 
  • Only accrued 30 penalty minutes. Had 46 hits. Blocked 116 shots. His 42 giveaways weren't quite offset by 37 takeaways.
  • Of note: 54.4% of his points came on the powerplay
Advanced Stats

  • Suter's even strength relative Corsi Quality of Competition is 1.262. To compare, let's look at the Norris Trophy candidates and the gold standard for modern defensemen, Nick Lidstrom. Suter's teammate Shea Weber drew slightly tougher assignments (1.332), while Zdeno Chara (1.015) and Erik Karlsson (0.675) faced weaker competition. The defensemen drawing the toughest assignments of the bunch was Nick Lidstrom (1.441), whose relative Corsi QoC ranked seventh in the league. 
  • Suter's on-ice Corsi rating was bad, and yet it was still the second best on the Predators. This is indicative of Nashville's propensity to be outshot by the opposition on a regular basis. Suter checked in at -2.98, while Shea Weber was -0.90. Erik Karlsson (12.68),  Nick Lidstrom (15.24), and Zdeno Chara (17.54) all increased their team's shot totals while on the ice compared to when they were on the bench. The glass-half-full way to look at this is that Nashville only allowed three more shots than they took while Suter was on the ice, which is good relative to current teammates like Kevin Klein (-11.96) and Roman Josi (-15.23).
  • At even strength, Suter averaged 0.12 goals, 0.19 first assists, and 0.43 second assists per 60 minutes played. This averages out to 0.74 points per 60 minutes of 5v5 time. By comparison,Weber (0.27, 0.39, 0.23 for 0.90), Karlsson (0.60, 0.60, 0.52 for 1.72), Chara (0.16, 0.44, 0.64 for 1.24), and Lidstrom (0.34, 0.15, 0.29 for 0.78) all averaged more points per 60 minutes. Suter has only one area where he's stronger than the comparison subjects, and that's second assists. Even here, he only ranks higher than Weber and Lidstrom.
  • Suter isn't going to outscore his cohort (at least at even strength), so defensive metrics need to be looked at if we're going to get a fuller picture of his true value. +/- On-Ice/60 and +/- Off-Ice/60 can help here. The first looks at the average goals for per 60 minutes of even strength ice time and subtracts average goals against per 60 minutes of even strength ice time from it. The latter does the same for the team when a player is off the ice. Suter's +/- On-Ice/60 was 0.50 and his +/- Off-Ice/60 was -0.05, with a gap between the two of 0.55. Weber's presence had a greater impact on Nashville's scoring than Suter's, as evidenced by his +/- On-Ice/60 of 0.70 and his  +/- Off-Ice/60 of -0.15, for a gap of 0.85. Karlsson appears to have the greatest impact on his team's performance (0.82, -0.24, gap of 1.06), followed by Chara (1.04, 0.38, gap of 0.66) and Lidstrom (1.07, 0.77, gap of 0.30).
  • As mentioned above, the majority of Suter's points this season came on the powerplay. His average powerplay ice time was 3.60 minutes. Averaging across all minutes played, Suter averaged 0.42 goals, 2.32 first assists, 1.69 second assists and 4.44 points per 60 minutes. Teammate Shea Weber averaged nearly the same points/60 (4.47), though in a very different way (2.01 goals, 1.56 first assists, 0.89 second assists, all per 60 minutes played) and in slightly less time (3.44 minutes/60). Zdeno Chara was particularly efficient with his 2.49 minutes per 60, averaging 2.44 goals, 1.83 first assists, 1.22 second assists, and 5.48 points per 60. On the other side of the coin we have Erik Karlsson, who averaged a surprisingly low 0.61 goals, 2.83 first assists, 1.01 second assists, and 4.44 points in 3.67 minutes per 60 played. Lidstrom averaged 0.98 goals, 1.47 first assists, 1.22 second assists, and 3.67 points in 3.50 minutes/60.
  • Suter averaged 2.26 minutes/60 on the penalty kill. Again, we'll compare using +/- On-Ice/60 (-4.71) and +/- Off-Ice/60 (-6.78). Weber played similar minutes (2.17 per 60) but had a bigger on-ice (-3.19) to off-ice (-8.06) differential than Suter. Chara played 2.49 minutes/60 on the PK, but seems to have adversely effected his team (-4.58 +/- On-Ice/60 vs. -4.06 +/- Off-Ice/60). Karlsson played 0.56 penalty kill minutes/60, and for good reason. His +/- On-Ice/60 (-6.60) was brutal compared to his +/- Off-Ice/60 (-5.21). Lidstrom was used sparingly on the penalty kill, and after his ankle injury in February he was completely removed from PK duty. Over the course of the season he averaged 1.67 minutes/60, with a +/- On-Ice/60 of -6.68 and a +/- Off-Ice/60 of -4.80.
  • Hockey Analysis has a unique way to look at the offensive, defensive, and total production of players. Here's the abbreviated explanation from their website (the rest of the article can be found here):
Given a large enough sample size of ice time with and against players I believe that we should have a reliable rating system in which any HARO, HARD, or HART greater than 1 indicates the player is a better than average player and anything under 1 indicates the player is a below average player. 
  • Suter is a good player across the board at even strength. His HARO+ is 0.978, his HARD+ is 1.058, and his HART+ is 1.018. Weber (1.071, 1.142, 1.106) is better than Suter at even strength. Karlsson is a defensive liability (1.294, 0.897, 1.096). Chara (1.311, 1.012, 1.161) and Lidstrom (1.176, 1.134, 1.155) are both great across all phases.
  • There's a clear difference between Suter's powerplay HARO+ (1.263) and Weber's (1.486). Lidstrom's PP HARO+ of 1.291 is fairly close to Suter's, and both are better than Chara's 1.113 and Karlsson's 1.175. 
  •  Suter's penalty kill HARD+ of 0.872 puts him in the same territory as Chara (0.809) and ahead of both Karlsson (0.786) and Lidstrom (0.673). Weber's PK HARD+ of 1.111 is better than any of the other comparison subject's and is the outlier here.
  • has data from the 2007/08 season through the 2011/12 season, and Suter's HARO+, HARD+, and HART+ over these five years was 0.833, 1.060, and 0.947, respectively. Not great offensively, but his defense has been more than solid.
  • Over the past five seasons, Suter's powerplay HARO+ has been 1.073. 
  • Suter's penalty kill HARD+ over the past five years has been 1.089. 

Suter's expiring contract has been paying him $3.5 million/yr over the last four seasons. He's played well enough to deserve a pay raise, and the relatively thin pool of unrestricted free agent defensemen dictates that he would have had to screw up pretty badly not to get more money.

With Suter, you're getting a good defensive defenseman with moderate offensive capabilities. He should be paid as such. Shea Weber's $7.5 million salary for the 2011/12 season is the high watermark for d-men, and the comparisons above show that he's a special talent. In my mind, Suter is worth significantly less than Weber because the offensive production just isn't there. Also, there's the possibility of a "Shea Weber effect" tainting Suter's numbers. Even advanced stats can't perfectly control for the fact that Weber and Suter have played almost identical minutes across situations and have played them as defense partners. It's hard to statistically extract exactly what Suter would contribute without Weber, and vice versa.

Statistically speaking, Niklas Kronwall compares very favorably to Suter. I'd expect Suter to sign a similar but slightly larger contract than the extension Kronwall signed this past October. 

Estimated Contract: $22 million/4 years ($5.5 million/yr)
Estimate Value: $5 million/yr

Can Detroit Sign Him?

If he's willing, then easily.

This roster assumes that the salary cap goes up to the $70 million that Jim Devellano said last week he expects it to. At that level, there could be room to sign both Suter and Parise, as well as re-sign Detroit's most important free agents.  

Signing Suter gives the Wings a good top pair defenseman for years to come, someone that would pair well with Niklas Kronwall. Detroit wants to get bigger and stronger in the offseason, and Suter's 6-1', 200 pound frame fits the bill, while also giving them the top flight defenseman they need. 

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Statistics in this article come from,, and

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