The two-year contract extension signed by Pekka Rinne on Wednesday does not make the 27-year-old the Nashville Predators’ number-one goalie in the coming seasons. It merely provides the opportunity for him to do so.
That was the thinking of general manager David Poile who also made it clear that Rinne’s new $6.8 million deal ($2.8 million for 2010-11, $4 million for 2011-12) does not necessarily mean the team plans to part with its other goalie, Dan Ellis, following the current campaign.
Ellis is one of just three veteran players — defenseman Dan Hamhuis and forward Wade Belak are the others — currently on the Nashville roster not signed beyond this season.
“This is no reflection on Dan Ellis,” Poile said. “We’d be very happy if we can enter into a contract with him as well. … I’ve spoken to his agent, and we said we’d wait to see how the rest of the season plays out, who plays in last 21 games, and — if we make the playoffs — who plays in the playoffs.”
Rinne, an eighth-round pick in 2004, leads Nashville (seventh in the NHL’s Western Conference) with 20 victories this season and has started 37 games. Ellis has 13 victories and 24 starts but his goals-against average (2.59) and save percentage (.913) are better than Rinne’s (2.80, .902). Ellis notched Nashville’s last two victories before the current Olympic break.
As a rookie, Rinne did record the team’s final 15 victories of 2008-09, and his 29 total wins were the third highest single-season total in franchise history.
“We just feel that with his development — where he has come from to where he is and his potential — that it made sense if we got an opportunity to sign him before the end of the season we should do it,” Poile said. “… Our two goaltenders have played almost equally this year, but this clearly gives (Rinne) a chance to establish himself as our number-one in future seasons.”
Rinne spent several days during the Olympic break visiting with family and friends in his native Finland. He said the negotiations took place in recent days and were concluded with little consternation.
“It was clear to myself that I’m playing with a team that has a good future,” Rinne said. “It’s a team I like playing with and this is where I wanted to stay.”
Still, his deal pales in terms of both length and money to the four-year extension Nashville gave Tomas Vokoun prior to the start of 2006-07 and which went into effect in 2007-08.
That deal was for an average of $5.7 million per season and has one season remaining. The money was part of the reason Vokoun was traded to Florida following the 2005-06 season, before the extension ever went into effect.
“My career always has gone in two-year cycles,” Rinne said. “When I came over to Milwaukee, I played pretty much two full seasons there. Now this is my second season in the NHL. So it makes sense to sign for two years.”
It does not, however, change anything for the remainder of this season, which resumes Tuesday when the Predators host the Edmonton Oilers.
“For sure, I want to be the guy for the next two years,” Rinne said. We have a tough 21 games left this year, and we’re going to need both myself and Ellie. So it’s not going to change anything.”