Part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ offseason will involve the evaluation of pending free agents. Today let’s take a look at RFA Center Pius Suter.
Pius Suter is the latest in the seemingly unending flow of European Free Agents to sign with the Blackhawks, getting their first taste of North American Professional Hockey in Chicago. He had a solid debut in his rookie season as a 24-year-old, not reaching the levels of Dominik Kubalik in 2019, but 27 points in 55 games is not bad by any stretch.
He showed playmaking ability from the Center position, as well as a surprisingly gritty effort along the boards and in puck battles. He possesses smooth hands, and a deceptively quick shot. At the defensive end of the ice, he puts a lot of effort into defending his position, but there are limitations with his size (5’9″, 175 lbs), where he can get outmuscled by a lot of players around the net and behind it.
For his production, you could call his 1-year contract at $925K (per Cap Friendly) a bargain, and the Hawks got better than expected value out of Suter in Year 1. I am sure he is expecting a substantial raise in year 2, and being eligible for arbitration in his case works in favor of the player in my opinion. Perhaps a $1.5-2.0M 2 year bridge deal would be in order?
The Case For Re-Signing Suter
Simply put, Suter was productive in his first season in North America, and the things he does well, you would expect him to improve on in his second season. He passes well, does work in close, and has a solid shot.
He developed a solid rapport with several different line mates in 2020-2021, playing with everyone from Kane and DeBrincat to Brandon Hagel and David Kampf. He can play all over the lineup, but with Dach and Toews expected to occupy the top 2 C spots, Suter would be a talented 3rd or 4th C to bring some goal scoring to the bottom 6.
His contract is not going to be prohibitive, so he would be a solid value as a 3rd C, competing with Borgstrom or Gaudette for that role.
The Case For Moving On From Suter
There are only 2 reasons I can think of that you would NOT bring him back for another season:
- You believe he won’t win the 3rd C job, and you don’t think a 4th C is worth $1.5M per season
- You want to sell high when his value is solid, and want to trade him after tendering him a qualifying offer
I think both are minor (but reasonable) concerns, and with Borgstrom, Gaudette, and Reichel all potentially in the mix for the 2021-22 season, Suter may lose out in the numbers game, as all 3 of those players are bigger, and have at least the same or greater upside.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Suter back in a ‘Hawks sweater next season, but I think because of the logjam behind (and in front of) him, I would move on from Suter. However, I would tender him the qualifying offer, and attempt to trade his rights as a sweetener in a draft-day trade. I would not think it was a bad move to Re-Sign him and keep him for a year or two.