Saturday afternoon, the Nashville Predators announced that they’ve signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a two-year contract extension.
The deal pays the 2018 Vezina Trophy winner $10 million over the two seasons, $6 million in 2019-20 and $4 million in 2020-21.
“Pekka Rinne has been the most impactful player our franchise has ever had, both on the ice as one of the NHL’s best goaltenders, and off the ice as a leader in the community,” General Manager David Poile said in the team’s press release. “Both the organization and Pekka want him to play his entire career with the Predators, and this helps accomplish that objective, while also stabilizing our goaltending for at least the next two seasons beyond 2018-19.”
While the extension doesn’t appear to have a no-trade clause, Poile’s statement seems to indicate that there’s a gentlemen’s agreement that, unless Rinne chooses to on his own volition after the summer of 2021, the all-time winningest Finnish-born goaltender will play his entire career in Music City.
With back-up Juuse Saros, 23, waiting in the wings, many were wondering when that passing of the torch from Rinne to his understudy would happen. Today’s news clearly lays out the intended succession plan. All things being equal, an NHL franchise shouldn’t be paying their back-up more than than their starter. Saros is in the first year of the three-year deal paying him just $1.5 million per season. When he was signed this past July 16, it prompted this tweet from ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski.
He’s going to be making $4.5 million when he gets his first Vezina nom. https://t.co/LTztslUyfa
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 16, 2018
Rinne’s new deal brings Wyshynski’s tweet closer to a reality.
Of course, this also helps General Manager David Poile and the Predators handle the possible (okay, fine… highly probable) Seattle, Washington expansion team. If the arena is ready, they could enter the League in time for the 2020-21 season. Assuming the Preds wouldn’t protect a 39-year old goaltender, Rinne could retire if chosen in the Expansion Draft. Or, if the arena won’t be ready and they’re forced to enter the League in 2021-22, Rinne would be considered a pending free agent that summer and, therefore, would be a waste of a pick for the previous life Metropolitans.
Saros is tied for the League lead in wins with six (6-2-0) while Rinne is second in both goals-against average (1.91) and save percentage (.940). When the veteran suffered a minor injury in Calgary on October 19, Saros took over the reigns and started five consecutive games for the first time in his NHL career. Rinne then returned to action on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning down in Florida and put together a 42-save performance.
Career-wise, the Kempele, Finland native is second all-time in regular season wins by a Finnish-born goaltender (315), is 28th on the NHL’s all-time wins list, is one of just three Finnish-born masked men to start a game in the Stanley Cup Final and won the 2017 Vezina Trophy for the League’s best goaltender.
Tonight, Rinne will play his seventh game of the 2018-19 campaign and his fifth game on November 3, his birthday (2-1-1).
Rinne’s current seven-year, $49 million deal was signed on this same day — his birthday — in 2011.