Ryan Suter vs. Niklas Kronwall

Rick Roos

2014-06-11

NiklasKronwall

 

Which stud defenseman would you rather own in fantasy hockey – Ryan Suter or Niklas Kronwall?

By popular demand – and on the heels of last week's column (which saw Patrick Kane pitted against Phil Kessel) – I'll once again be focusing on two high profile players. This time it's Ryan Suter against Niklas Kronwall in a battle of two franchise defensemen. But which one suits your team better? Leave it to your trusty Cage Match to declare a winner.

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

As happens from time to time here in Cage Match, we have a much older player (Kronwall turns 34 in January, when Suter will turn 30) who has actually played in fewer career games than the younger player (672 for Suter, versus just 594 for Kronwall). In this case, the games played discrepancy resulted from Kronwall (who was drafted 29th overall in 2000) not coming to North America until 2003, and then appearing in only 47 total games before becoming an NHL regular in 2006-07, versus Suter arriving in the NHL full time in 2005-06, a mere two years after being picked 7th overall in 2003.

Kronwall waited in the Wings – pun intended – for much of his early career as Nicklas Lidstrom and others (from Mathieu Schneider to Brian Rafalski) commanded top minutes both at even strength and on the PP. But once Kronwall became "the man" after Lidstrom's retirement following the 2011-12 season, he's responded with 78 points in 127 games over the past two seasons, for a 50 point full season scoring pace that's better than his individual output from all but one of his Lidstrom era campaigns (he scored 51 points in 2008-09).

Suter had a couple of rough seasons getting acclimated to the NHL; but since 2008-09 he's never scored fewer than 37 points in a full season. However, on the flip side he's also never surpassed 46 points, and he followed up his very encouraging 32 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign (just under a 55 point full season pace) with only 43 points in 82 games this past season.

Suter's contract is likely one that most poolies – and certainly all who are in cap leagues – know quite well, as his 13 year, $98M deal (through 2024-25, when Suter will be 40 years old) brings with it a $7.538M yearly cap hit, which, according to Capgeek, is second highest among all NHL defensemen. Meanwhile, Kronwall's $4.75M yearly cap hit (via a seven year, $33.25M deal through 2018-19) is a bargain by comparison, so much so that it's hard to imagine Suter being the better option in any cap league no matter what the data below might indicate.

 

Ice Time

For the first time since I took over Cage Match in 2013 I'm not going to do a year-by-year tabular breakdown of Ice Time as part of my analysis. The reasoning is these guys have been proven workhorses for their respective teams over the past few seasons, and no one should expect that situation to change an