Pekka Rinne to sign contract extension with Nashville Predators

Hints have been dropped this morning that Pekka Rinne is about to sign a contract extension with the Nashville Predators. First, his agent Jay Grossman mentioned on Twitter "Possible UFA signing announcement later today......" That was enough to get some speculation rolling, as Rinne is a pending Unrestricted Free Agent this summer, and David Poile has mentioned often that he'd be talking with all of upcoming free agents about new contracts during the Olympic break.

Then, just before noon, came this from Dan Ellis: "Congrats to my boy peks".

I'm guessing that Dan is congratulating Rinne on more than a good practice today...

Sure enough, this came from Jay Grossman a few minutes later: "Nashville to announce contract extension for client, Pekka Rinne, later today. Details to follow...."

UPDATE: Text of the press release from the team is included below.


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

206

Nov 03, 1982



GP MIN W L GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pekka Rinne 40 2205 20 12 103 2.80 1049 946 .902 3

Pekka has been groomed for the #1 job in Nashville for many years now, dating from his 8th-round selection in the 2004 draft. He's the only goalie from that class to have made a significant impact at the NHL level, with only San Jose backup Thomas Greiss and former Tampa Bay netminder Karri Ramo (who's now in the KHL) having played more than 10 NHL games. Rinne played 145 games over the course of three seasons in Milwaukee before getting a regular NHL job, and in 2008-9 nearly carried the Preds into the playoffs when Dan Ellis faltered as the main starter.

This season, Rinne's play has been more erratic, but it has been obvious for several weeks that Barry Trotz wants to get the big Finn going by giving him every opportunity to succeed (at Ellis' expense). Set in that context, Ellis' congratulatory tweet that first mentioned this news publicly is an especially classy gesture.

Budget squeeze likely pushes Ellis out

The consequence of this deal, of course, is that Dan Ellis will likely leave as a free agent this summer. Nashville can't afford to have two goalies earning significant cash, as their payroll is typically targeted for about 25% of the way from the salary floor to the salary cap (this year, that's around $44 million, and will likely remain around the same for next season). Certainly another team will want to give him a shot at their top job based on his .913 career save percentage and league-best .924 in 2007-8.

According to Capgeek.com, the Preds have $36.4 million committed to next season's team before the Rinne deal, with Patric Hornqvist (restricted free agent), Francis Bouillon, Dan Ellis and Dan Hamhuis (all UFA) all in the final year of their contracts. The expectation is that Hamhuis will move on (given the salary he'll command and the talent coming up).

If I had to guess right now, I'd suspect that you could pencil in either Mark Dekanich or a budget-priced free agent for the backup role in Nashville next season, with Chet Pickard taking over the primary job in Milwaukee.

Despite wording from David Poile that opens up the possibility, I would not expect Dan Ellis to be traded away at the deadline. The Preds' playoff drive would be best served by having both of them here, and the market is likely to be glutted with teams selling goalies at this point (Marty Turco, Martin Biron, and even Tomas Vokoun have been discussed).

Here's the text from the team's press release:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a two-year, $6.8 million contract. The deal will pay him $2.8 million in 2010-11 and $4 million in 2011-12.

Rinne, 27 (11/3/82), has posted a 20-12-4 record in his second full NHL season, which included a franchise record seven-game winning streak from Nov. 12-25, 2009. As a rookie in 2008-09, the Kempele, Finland native ranked among the League leaders in shutouts (tied for fourth with a franchise-record 7),  goals-against average (sixth, 2.38) and save percentage (tied for ninth, .917), in addition to finishing fourth in voting for the Calder Trophy. His 29 wins a season ago were also tied for the ninth-most by a first-year netminder in NHL history.

Nashville's 10th choice, 258th overall (eighth round), of the 2004 Entry Draft has appeared in 95 career contests since making his NHL debut on Dec. 15, 2005, accumulating a 50-28-8 record, 2.56 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and 10 shutouts. He represented his native Finland for the first time in last May's 2009 World Championships in Switzerland, starting six of the nation's seven games. He was voted one of Finland's three best players of the tournament after ranking third in goals-against average (1.93) and sixth in save percentage (.926).

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