Gallagher: Pekka’s order restored in Nashville
The uncertainty in front of Preds goalie is gone, and now he can just concentrate on stopping pucks
If you think it was a stressful summer for Nashville GM David Poile, imagine what may have been going through the head of goaltender Pekka Rinne when Ryan Suter and Shea Weber were doing their monetary dance in the first week of July.
The Finnish goalie, who churns out brilliant seasons one after another like some sort of assembly line, was thinking at times after Philadelphia had made the massive offer to Weber that perhaps signing that long-term deal the summer before may have been the dumbest move since the Rangers jumped out of their boots to land Bobby Holik.
Instead of having the premier defensive pairing in the league in front of him for nearly 30 minutes every game, it was looking like Kevin Klein was soon to be No. 1, and that letting Francis Bouillon get away to Montreal was also sliding into the regrettable column.
As everyone knows now, it turns out Nashville ownership did match the Philly offer to keep Weber, and the world is unfolding as it always does in the Predator labour camp — but not before Rinne got a few grey hairs.
“It was pretty tough there for a while, and at the same time you know it’s a business. I knew I would be facing this situation . . . it doesn’t make it any easier,” says Rinne, who is once again sporting his traditional gaudy numbers, a 1.67 goals against average and a .935 save percentage, fourth and third respectively among NHL goaltending leaders.
“Eventually we ended up keeping Shea, and we’ve survived on the culture of the organization here along with the commitment of other long-terms guys like (Mike) Fisher and (Martin) Erat. But it was tough. When I signed here, I knew this was coming up, and I understand that it’s different for everyone and each guy has to do what’s right for himself and his family. I made the commitment to Nashville because this is where I want to play. It has to be your call and this was mine. It’s just part of the business.”
Turns out they really haven’t missed Suter, at least if you look at just the standings. But Weber may have a different view of the issue given the Sicamous native seemed to struggle early trying to earn the choking wad of money the traditionally frugal ownership had to come up with to keep the lock for Team Canada in Sochi.
“It comes down to the really good culture here and the fact we try to be the hardest-working team on the ice every time we play,” Rinne says of what goes on in front of him.
“Some nights we dress seven defencemen, some nights we use just the three pairs, but it comes down to this team finding its identity again.”
When Rinne signed his seven-year, $49-million deal in 2012, there were no particular promises made with respect to personnel, but Poile has always made it known the expectation for the franchise in the future is that it would spend at or very much toward the ceiling of the salary cap.
That’s not happening this year, however, with the Preds still having over $16 million to spend despite the Weber deal. That puts them in great shape when the cap falls next season, but still a long way from the ceiling.
“David is trying his best to build the team to where there will supposedly come a day when that will be the case,” says Rinne, who never has much offence to work with when it comes to manufacturing wins.
“But we’re not there yet.”
As a charter member of the goaltending fraternity, Rinne says he doesn’t know enough about what’s being offered and by whom in the Roberto Luongo auction process to comment on why nobody seems to be interested. But he is enjoying the Strombone1 twitter comments.
“I don’t follow him, but I see a lot of them when they come on the news, and they’re pretty funny. It’s great that he can relax and enjoy what must be a tough situation for both those guys there.”
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An off-season of uncertainty, in which Pekka Rinne didn’t know who’d be patrolling the Nashville Predators blueline in front of him, is far in the past. The Nashville goalie didn’t lose blue-chipper Shea Weber, and can concentrate on stopping pucks.
Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images