Early Thursday afternoon the Nashville Predators announced that the team had awarded goaltender Pekka Rinne a seven-year contract worth $49 million – the largest contract of the franchise’s 14 year existence. Oddly enough, the announcement was made on Rinne’s 29th birthday. While the rest of us are getting cake for our birthday, this guy is getting $49 million for his birthday – no big deal right?
The Predators goaltender, now in his sixth-year, proved he was a top-level NHL goaltender last season when he finished as one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy – awarded to the best goaltender of the regular season – and helped lead the franchise to its first ever playoff series victory, a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. The Predators playoff run stalled out shortly after as Nashville was unable to get past the Vancouver Canucks in the second round, though it certainly was a good learning experience for Rinne and the team alike.
Nashville hopes that he can take the team further this season, though he has started off flirting with mediocrity. In 11 starts, Rinne has a 5-4-2 record in part due to a .922 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average. He currently leads the league in saves with 307 and is second behind Jonathan Quick in shutouts at two.
“Today’s signing is further evidence of our ownership’s commitment to keeping our core intact,” Nashville general manager David Poile said in a statement. “This is the first step of a process designed to retain our key players and leaders. Pekka has grown with our franchise, just recently established our franchise record for career shutouts and is now recognized as one of the game’s elite players.”
Nashville has had a hard time retaining big name free agent signings in its history and it could pose a threat this year, come June. Two of the Predators’ key defenseman could have new homes next season, as Ryan Suter will become an unrestricted free agent and Shea Weber will become a restricted free agent. Weber was a finalist for the Norris Trophy, as the league’s best defenseman, last season. Recently, the franchise has been built around a solid defense with guys like Weber, so losing a player of Weber’s caliber could be a huge blow for the Predators.
Rinne’s contract will make him the second highest paid goaltender in the league, behind Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s time for him to get back on track and prove what his worth and what he means to a franchise that has managed to sweep the relocating rumors under the carpet for the time being.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.