Pius Suter’s outlook changed quickly from disappointment to opportunism. Rejected by one NHL team, free agency came as a balm, and a boon. The Detroit Red Wings sought scoring help, and Suter fit general manager Steve Yzerman’s plan: A young, skilled player who could be had on a short-term deal. If Suter pans out, great; if he struggles, the term is manageable.
For Suter, the two-year, $6.5 million deal represents a chance to solidify that be belongs in the NHL. Suter, who turned 25 in May, played five seasons in his native Switzerland — he was the Swiss League MVP in 2019-20, with 30 goals in 50 games — before a successful run with the Chicago Blackhawks this year. Attempts to land with the Ottawa Senators (2017) and New York Islanders (2018) had previously fizzled.
“One thing was to grow as a player, and then to get the opportunity,” Suter said. “Before when I went to those camps, I always knew I’m going home after that. It was more about the experience — take it in, learn from it and see what I have to do better.
“And then it was just about getting the opportunity, get your foot in and show yourself. My development didn’t go crazy-high in one year, it was just kind of slow, keep going, and that’s what it’s been. That’s why I was a bit older when I got a chance.”
From 2013-15, Suter played junior hockey in Guelph, where he was teammates with Wings forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri. Suter smiled as he recalled the three “having one really good game, where we scored a few goals together.” Training camp will shake out who plays with whom, but odds are Suter will get some looks on a line with at least one of those players. Suter plays center or wing, but he’ll likely start his audition as the second-line center, between a combination of Bertuzzi, Fabbri, Jakub Vrana and Filip Zadina. Suter, who shoots left, is also a shoo-in for power play looks.
“My goal is to get good ice time and keep going what I started,” Suter said.
What he started is a 14-goal, 13-assist career that included a hat-trick against the Wings in January. “For me, it worked out well to play against them,” Suter said with a smile. “Sorry about that.” When contract negotiations between Suter and the Blackhawks didn’t go anywhere, they opted not to give him a qualifying offer, leaving him an unrestricted free agent.
“I know it might happen,” Suter said. “I didn’t think a lot about it. It happened, but it happened really quick — not being qualified, then free agency. It was nice to hear the interest, that means I did something right the last few years.”
Enter Yzerman, who is trying to pump up a team that ranked 30th out of 31 teams last season with a 2.23 goals-per-game average. Suter’s camp received other offers, but it wasn’t a hard decision.
“There was interest, I took it as a compliment,” Suter said. “It happened pretty quick. I wanted to make a decision and not wait. There was no point in waiting.”
The hope within the organization is that Suter can do what Fabbri did: Use an opportunity to emerge as building block. Suter is game for that.
“I try to score and grow as the team grows, grow as a player,” he said “Grow together so we can win more games, kind of have a mutual benefit that way.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.