The free agency season for the Nashville Predators next Summer was projected to be rather mental, with three of their best players were up for free agency, two unrestricted and one restricted, but the team has taken a huge leap to make sure that they plug one of those holes before everything goes haywire.
On Thursday afternoon, the team announced that they had signed Vezina-candidate goaltender Pekka Rinne to a new 7-year, $49 million extension, the largest contract ever handed down from the club. This would ensure that Rinne would be the number one guy (in theory) through the 2019 season. Next up, unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter and restricted free agent Shea Weber.
This deal will put a lot of pressure on Rinne to perform, but over the past few seasons, he has done more than enough to give management and the coaching staff faith in his abilities. Rinne has posted back-to-back 30+ win seasons, picking up 78 pool points in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, ranking 14th among all goaltenders in points last season.
In the early part of the 2012 season, Rinne currently ranks 10th in pool scoring in total, 5th among goaltenders with 5 wins, 2 shutouts and 1 assist for 15 points in 11 appearances, amassing a 5-4-2 record.
Looking ahead to the 2013 season, when this new extension kicks in, the Nashville Predators only have 10 of their regulars in the line-up today and they are coming in at a very minimal cost, with Rinne included, of $27.9 million, leaving lots of room for whatever the cost of Suter and Weber will cost against the cap. Of course, they are going to have to deal with quite a few more free agents in the Summer, but locking up their core is the biggest concern for management.
In terms of cap hits league-wide, Rinne now has the largest cap hit ($7 million) for the 2013 season among all goaltenders, narrowly passing Henrik Lundqvist for the title. Rinne's cap hit is also in a tie for the 13th highest among all players in the 2013 season, as of today.
This signing doesn't have any immediate implications to the season, unless Rinne plays better because he has the comfort of a long-term deal or worse, because now he is getting paid. Nevertheless, Rinne was thought to be a very valuable player for the draft this year, having been taken 17th overall by Wes M., which is already working out to be the right move, considering how well the start of his season has gone. I just wanted to point that out, showing that Predators management were not crazy to lock him up long-term.