Just a little more than 24 hours after Ryan Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild and his former defensive partner in Nashville, Shea Weber, was "still processing the news" according to one of his agents.
"He's still in disbelief," Kevin Epp told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun on Thursday. "They were so close this year in terms of the team's chances. They really had a shot. Shea believed there was a good chance that Ryan would stay there. So right now, Shea is still processing this news."
Excitement around the Predators was seemingly higher than it's ever been this past season. They were major buyers at the trade deadline -- adding Andrei Kostitsyn Paul Gaustad and Hal Gill -- they had a surprising from Alexander Radulov as he came back from the KHL, and the team finished one of the best campaigns in franchise history with 104 points.
Beyond that, for the second year in a row moved beyond the first round of the playofs, finally knocking off a Detroit Red Wings team that terrorized in the postseason for years.
Now all of a sudden there seems to be quite a bit of uncertainty not only about the overall strength of the team (losing a player like Suter is a blow to any organization) but also the future of their captain and best player (Weber).
Suter is gone, Radulov is back to the KHL, and Weber's situation remains unsolved with still three possible outcomes: A long-term contract extension in Nashville (the best-case scenario), a trade, or some team doing the unthinkable and signing the restricted free agent to a massive offer sheet, tempting the Predators to match it (which they no doubt will).
The latter option is of course the least likely scenario because teams simply don't go after restricted free agents, and that seems unlikely to change with this situation.
General manager David Poile has been in similar situations twice over the past few years with top defensemen and each time has held on to to them with the hope that a long-term deal could be signed. When it became clear that Dan Hamhuis was not going to re-sign following the 2009-10 season his free agent rights were traded to the Philadelphia Flyers (and then to the Pittsburgh Penguins, before he ultimately signed with his hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks).
This year he received no return at all for Suter as he left on July 4.
Can the Predators possibly put themselves in a position where they risk losing yet another top blue liner for little-to-no return?
Poile is still committed to re-signing Weber to a long-term deal (as he should be) but if it continues to drag on with no resolution you have to think that there comes a point where a trade is the only option. He's too valuable an asset to lose for nothing, especially when it's already happened to the franchise twice in the past three years.