The Predators will enjoy another two years of #35. Pekka Rinne has officially been with Nashville twelve years, with 2018-2019 being his thirteenth. With a Vezina trophy under his belt, a career save percentage of .919, and 53 career shutouts, he has undoubtedly earned the right to end his career in Nashville.
The Legacy of Pekka Rinne
The legacy of Rinne begins with his first full season. In 2008, defensemen like Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber were in their prime, forwards David Legwand and Jason Arnott were the leading goal scorers, and Roman Josi was drafted in the second round. The logo was a skull; the home jerseys were navy. Bridgestone Arena was even called Sommet Center.
Ten years later, Roman Josi is now the captain. Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson are now the leading goal scorers. The logo is updated, the jerseys are gold, and the Predators’ home is called Bridgestone Arena. (Dan Hamhuis returned to Nashville after a seven year period with the Vancouver Canucks and the Dallas Stars)
The one constant: Pekka Rinne.
Make no mistake about it – the Nashville Predators built their franchise around him, and they would not have been as successful without him.
He has lead the Predators to eight playoff appearances, including the past four years. Rinne’s previous postseason was rocky, but it’s easy to blame a goaltender – he has the toughest job on the ice, and performs at the highest level on a consistent basis.
He leads the Predators all-time in wins (316), shutouts (53), lowest GAA for any Predator goaltender (2.37), best save percentage from any Nashville goaltender (.919), and he holds the only Vezina trophy out of all Nashville Predators goaltenders. Basically, he’s been the best goaltender in Nashville’s history.
FUN FINNISH FACT: During the first round of the 2016-2017 playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks (as a team) scored three goals. On the contrary, Rinne recorded two assists. Let me reiterate – he was one point shy of matching the entire Blackhawks team.
And he posted two shutouts. And made this unbelievable save. (He’s pretty good)
What Does This Mean For Nashville?
P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis are locked down through 2021. The only defenseman left to sign for the duration of Rinne’s career is Roman Josi (Josi has every intention to resign). So, the defense will relatively remain the same.
Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Nick Bonino and Kyle Turris are also locked in for the remainder of Rinne’s career.
However, Ryan Hartman, Kevin Fiala, Craig Smith, Austin Watson, Miikka Salomaki, and Colton Sissons aren’t signed through 2021. All of those guys have something to prove- Sissons, Hartman, and Smith have been playing gritty hockey as of late, but Fiala and Salomaki haven’t been extremely productive, and Watson hasn’t played this season.
Young forwards such as Eeli Tolvanen, Frederick Gaudreau, Rocco Grimaldi, and Colin Blackwell are waiting in the wings.
There are a lot of questions that need answering, even in the midst of Nashville’s best chance for a Stanley Cup. Forward depth isn’t in question at all right now, but how long will they have the depth they have?
So, as he was once before, Pekka Rinne will be a rock for the Predators. At least for two more years.
Juuse Saros. The future. He’s ready now, but that’s not a bad thing.
A fan favorite already, Saros has been unbelievably impressive this year. Following Rinne’s concussion was more than 60 minutes of shutout hockey courtesy of Juice. He already has 6 wins this year.
He’s 23 now, and will be 25 when Rinne’s extension is up. Saros has been Rinne’s backup for two seasons; he took on more games last year in preparation for the playoffs, and relieved Rinne four times in the playoffs.
A lot of debate has become of who is the better goaltender: Rinne or Saros? Statistically speaking, they’ve been relatively even since Juice was named the official backup. Both goaltenders bring a sense of comfort- when either one of them is in net, no player on the Nashville bench feels the need to compensate for a poor goalie. It’s hard to say who is the better goalie, but Saros has definitely benefitted playing under Rinne.
One of Saros’ best saves on a one-time attempt from San Jose defenseman Brent Burns.
That is an absolutely incredible stop. From the read, to the stretch, to the awareness to finish the play, Saros could not have made a prettier save on one of the best shooters in the league.
However, Rinne did all of those things first.
Here’s something to think about: Rinne became a full-time starter when he was 26. Saros will (hopefully) be the unquestionable starter at 25. If Saros plays to his potential, it’s going to be a melancholic goalie transition, but not a transition filled with uncertainty.
In a nutshell, Saros has huge skates to fill, but he won’t have any problem doing so when the time comes.
This is a good thing for Nashville, for a multitude of reasons.
Saros can marinate for two more years. He can progressively pick up more playing time as the season continues. No real reason for concern with Juice.
Rinne is the face of the Predators’ organization, and it’s only right that he gets as many chances as he can to hoist the Cup. He provides solidarity, experience, and leadership to Nashville’s locker room. If drastic changes are made regarding forward depth within the next two years, Rinne will do what he has always done- be the reassurance that the Predators need.
He has been a tremendous ambassador to the sport- his work with raising awareness for cancer and providing funding to children’s hospitals speaks to that. Rinne has become a symbol for the Nashville community.
Fans adore him, teammates love him, and opponents respect him- but of course, they don’t like playing against him.
“Actually I’ve scored twice on [Rinne] in my life, but like I always play him and I never. I never beat him. He’s so good,” said Connor McDavid while on the bench at the 2017-18 All Star Game. (2017-2018 points leader with 108).
Nashville’s rock will chase the Stanley Cup for two more years. It will be an exciting two years to watch to say the least.