NHL Free Agents 2012: Signing UFA Ryan Suter Would Put Red Wings Back on Track

Andrew Kulha@@AKonSportsSenior Analyst IIIJuly 1, 2012

The Detroit Red Wings will be well on the way to re-establishing their dominance in the NHL if they are able to sign unrestricted free agent defenseman Ryan Suter.

This has to be the Wings' No. 1 goal in free agency, as it can completely change the course of the franchise for better.

Let's be honest, the Red Wings are at a crossroads.

They have been one of the most dominant teams in sports, let alone the NHL, for the past two decades, but since winning their last Stanley Cup in 2008, they have been on a slow decline.

They've gotten older, especially defensively, and the rest of the league started to catch up. Teams like the San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes have caught up in the Western Conference, and even in their own division, the Blackhawks, Predators and Blues have found ways to overcome the once-mighty Wings.

The real indication of the changing of the tide came at the end of this last season, though. Detroit was promptly kicked out of the conference quarterfinals, losing four games to one to the Predators.

It didn't look like a team that could compete in the quarterfinals, let alone win a Stanley Cup, and that's how we knew change was imminent.

The offseason brought us the retirement of Red Wings captain and NHL great Nick Lidstrom, and now here we are—staring at the crossroads.

Which way to go?

Thankfully for the Wings, Detroit has been a destination city for hockey free agents because of the winning tradition and love for the sport the area possesses. They have stars already in place in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and they have a young, talented, up-and-coming goalie in Jimmy Howard.

There's a lot to like about the Red Wings, and when you add in the fact that they have the cap room and are looking to be aggressive in free agency—plus the fact that they are expected to have interest in the defenseman—it seems as if Suter could be the perfect fit.

He's an All-Star-caliber defender that can take over right where Lidstrom left off on the Red Wings' blue line. He'll also serve as a symbol of change for the organization. He's talented, he's young—27 years old—and he can lead this team moving into the future.

This is a pivotal period of time for the Red Wings, as they are undoubtedly not the only team interested in plugging some holes with a star like Suter. Also, remember, it's not like Nashville will just let him walk out the door without putting up some kind of a fight.

Moral of the story is, the Wings have to make themselves the most attractive option out there.

If they don't make a big move, they very well may continue their trend downward into mediocrity. If they can make a huge signing, though, and fill some of those glaring needs, the sky is the limit.

Suter fits the need for a dominant defender and he'd put the Red Wings right back on track. We'll have to wait and see if they can make it happen.

 

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