By now, much has been made about the signings of American-born stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter by Minnesota, also known as "The State of Hockey." The Wild established themselves as one of the more credible teams in the Western Conference, particularly the Northwest Division, and should vie for one of the West's final playoff spots. You likely won't have to pay what the Wild did for Parise and Suter, who inked identical 13-year, $98 million contracts on Wednesday, but both of these players will have their own respective price tags come draft day. From a statistical perspective, neither Suter or Parise can be considered elite players. They're not average, but they're not exactly going to lead the league in scoring at their respective positions. Minnesota committed such a large chunk of the team's future to the two talismanic Americans because of the intangibles the duo possesses: hockey sense, work ethic and leadership to name a few.
Suter: 2011-12 stats: 7-39-46, plus-15, 25 PPP. Suter's 46 points this season were a career-high and he has posted 37 points or better each of the last four seasons, cracking 40 twice. Suter has never broken 10 goals in his career. His 46 points were tied for 11th best among NHL defensemen along with Dennis Wideman (who received a huge payday from Calgary). His 134 shots were 90 less than former Nashville teammate Shea Weber.
Suter has quietly been one of the top second-tier fantasy defensemen the last four seasons. He doesn't have the gaudy goal totals of Erik Karlsson, Weber (who may be a former Nashville player soon), Dustin Byfuglien or Kris Letang. Suter has slipped in drafts the last few seasons, but, like Parise, his price tag will not be as low this season due to his free agent signing but more so due to his coming off a career-best season. Elite defensemen usually begin going in the early parts of the third round, and a case could be made for Karlsson going at the end of the first round. Suter doesn't have the upside of an Alex Pietrangelo or the potential for across-the-board production like P. K. Subban (big hits and PIM numbers), but Suter should slot in to the top 15-17 defensemen taken around Keith Yandle, Mark Streit, Brent Burns and Kevin Shattenkirk. Suter's situation in Minnesota will be missing one key component that is sure to drive down his value: Shea Weber.
Weber and Suter formed one of, if not, the NHL's top defensive pairs. Statistically, the duo was one of the best considering Weber's propensity to knock on the door of 20 goals most seasons. Suter heads to a team with more talented forwards than in Nashville, which could improve his already impressive power-play numbers. Expect Suter to team up with Tom Gilbert on the Wild's top power-play unit, possibly Jared Spurgeon at times, along with Parise, M. Koivu and Heatley. Suter will likely see close to 27-28 minutes a night with Minnesota. Suter's value did not take as much of a hit as Parise's by going to Minnesota, but if you believe Shea Weber had a lot to do with Suter's success, then you're likely going to pass on Suter anyway. Suter won't score too many goals or shoot as often as others, but his assist numbers will be more than sufficient.
July projection on Suter: 7-36-43, 22-25 power-play points. Sixth round or later: Players taken close to Suter should be Drew Doughty, Yandle, Streit, Duncan Keith. Comparable players available after Suter: Matt Carle (hello Steven Stamkos), Jack Johnson, Justin Faulk, Ian White, Nicklas Kronwall, Jason Garrison. I'd expect Dion Phaneuf to go before Suter to go a round or two before Suter, ditto on Michael Del Zotto.