It’s no secret that the strength of the Nashville Predators lies in its defense. The defensive zone chemistry between their forwards and rearguards is excellent and their back end trio of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne stacks up against any top pair/goaltending combo in hockey.

Yet, with the noted tight financial situation surrounding the franchise, I can’t help but wonder: Would the Predators be better off shopping Ryan Suter?

The thought is initially ridiculous, I know, believe me. I’m a big Ryan Suter fan. I think the guy will win AT LEAST one Norris Trophy before he retires. But given that the Predators will likely only be able to retain one of either Weber or Suter, it is possible to do some addition by subtraction.

As one of the elite defencemen in the NHL, Suter could bring in a huge haul to Nashville. Quite frankly, if you think Rick Nash is worth multiple roster players, prospects and picks, Ryan Suter is worth the whole damn roster and farm. Again, I love Rick Nash but Ryan Suter is much higher on the scale of defencemen than Nash is forwards.

When you realistically consider what teams have given up for defencemen – Nashville’s Hal Gill acquisition is no exception – Suter could easily net a couple of good roster players, a high quality not-far-off prospect and a first round pick. Given Nashville’s “Moneyball” way of doing business, that’s not the worst way to go about things.

Suter is a UFA as of July 1 and the Predators will still be constrained to their budgetary restrictions on that day. Hockey revenues are increasing as the team gains popularity – this is true – but I’m still skeptical that they’ll be able to retain an RFA in Weber and Ryan Suter who will hit the open market. I won’t openly advocate that they trade Suter, but I’m suggesting that they explore any options that keep them within their financial constraints and improve the team going forward. Suter is an excellent piece but with their organization depth and theoretical positive additions to the roster they could push themselves over the top with a deal like this.

Then again, if the Preds can retain Suter for at least one more season and Alex Radulov makes his “triumphant” return from the KHL they could be over the top as it is.

To their credit, the Preds have been defensive about their financial status and became vocal about it after The Hockey News ran with a ‘Slashville‘ cover. Team chairman Thomas Cigarran has publicly rebutted the notion that they can’t retain all three.

“The Hockey News had a cover article called ‘Slashville’ talking about how we couldn’t afford to sign these three players and I’m looking forward to writing a little letter to them pointing out we did. The money is there to sign these guys and we have every intent of doing it.”

Thanks to THN Web Editor Rory Boylen for documenting that quote in his story on “Pulling for the Predators.” In a lot of ways it’s hard not to. They’re a team that plays tight, checking, defensive hockey. They have an all-world goaltender. What’s not to like?

I for one am pulling for Nashville to make noise. I love that the game is growing down there. I love the way the organization conducts itself. But if actively looking to trade Ryan Suter at the deadline for quality pieces means not losing him for free, they have to look into it.

What do you think? Should he be untouchable? Comment, #BShelf, Facebook.