Pius Suter presents a perpelxing problem for the Detroit Red Wings. On the one hand, the versatile Swiss forward was undoubtedly a valuable performer for the team during the 2022-23 NHL season.
Of that there is no debate.
“He filled a lot of quality roles for us,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde acknowledged. “That’s certainly a credit for him. A lot of it out of necessity and a lot of it a credit to him. Very useful player.”
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) April 8, 2023
At the same time, Suter’s contract is up. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so the Red Wings face a decision as to whether Suter fits into their future plans.
On this side of the issue, there’s much debate.
“Where he fits in going into the future, where he fits in in the league, I don’t know,” Lalonde said. “That’s the player-management-coach dynamic. But obviously, the way I used him down the stretch speaks volumes for what he did for us.”
The Case For Red Wings Keeping Suter
Suter scored 14 goals in 79 games this season, one shy of the career-high 15 he netted the previous campaign for Detroit. Suter also tallied 14 times for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2020-21, his first NHL season. Being able to pencil a player in every season for 14-15 goals in today’s NHL is nothing to sneeze at.
Another plus with Suter, 26, is that a team can slot him in just about every forward position and all roles on the ice. Lalonde admires the hockey IQ that the Swiss forward brings to the ice.
“He’s a real cerebral player, so I think that helps him in any situation,” Lalonde said. “Obviously, being a center, but I’ve used him on wing. He’s he’s been on our first line, our fourth line, used him in penalty-kill situations, trust him in everything because he’s cerebral.”
Suter has come to truly embrace his role as Detroit’s veritable Swiss Army Knife.
“It’s nothing crazy new for me,” Suter said. “I’m all over the lineup. I’m kind of used to it. I’ve been playing a couple years pro now. You take what you get.”
The Case For Letting Suter Walk
What can Suter get on the open market? Two years ago, when Chicago was opting not to qualify, making Suter a UFA, he signed with the Red Wings. Detroit wound up giving him a two-year pact with an AAV of $3.25 million.
One area of concern is that the 5-foot-11, 179-pound Suter doesn’t play a heavy game. Detroit has a number of players on the roster of that ilk. Too many, in fact. Detroit GM Steve Yzerman admitted it’s a situation that must change going forward.
We’ve got to play harder,” Yzerman said. “We’ll try to add different components to the team as we move along, not just this year but moving forward, try to add those components.”
Are There More Economical Solutions?
Another factor is whether there are more economical options available on the roster to fill the void should Suter depart. Certainly, Joe Veleno, who just completed his first full NHL campaign, offers more size, strength and the potential to be they heavy presence at center that Suter doesn’t deliver.
“That’s definitely one thing that I want to bring to the table,” Veleno said. “I’ve got the size for it and the ability to be hard to play against.”
Veleno’s 9-11-20 numbers in 81 games were just four points fewer than what Suter produced and the team thinks there’s more offensive upside that will come in his game.
“I think I could, I think I have that ability in me,” Veleno said. “I just gotta keep working at it.”
There’s also the continued evolution of Marco Kasper, Detroit’s 2022 first-round pick, another prickly, 200-foot center. He’s going to play for the Red Wings. Will it be next season? It’s too early to say.
“You certainly hope so,” Lalonde said. “That’s a lot to ask.”
Suppose the Wings could get Suter again around the same ballpark figures and term as his last contract. Is Suter worth that investment?
Probably not. Even with his versatility, it’s not like he’s an irreplacable piece of the puzzle.
“We’ll see where that goes going forward,” Lalonde said of Suter’s future in Detroit.
Reading between the lines, it would appear that future involves Suter going to play elsewhere.