What? We Don't Have A Backup Plan?

The Predators have had a pretty interesting goalie saga evolving since their debut in the league.  To date, the Preds have filled their starting goalie roster spot with Mike Dunham, Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason, Dan Ellis, and Pekka Rinne.  That’s right, in only eleven seasons, the Predators have had five different #1 goalies between the pipes, just a few more than New Jersey during the same time frame.  However, the Predators have always had a pretty viable backup option every year, except for this upcoming 2010-2011 season.  Even entering the 2007-2008 season, when Dan Ellis emerged from relative obscurity, the Preds had NHL-ready talent in Pekka Rinne available to them if needed. 

Since the Predators have never really been a team with a super high-scoring offense, the importance of a solid goaltending tandem has been, and will likely be key to the team’s future success.  We have been lucky enough to have seasons with 1A and 1B goalies in the past, but this year will almost certainly be a different story.  The major hole yet to be filled in the Pred’s roster is the backup goalie position, who is also the fortunate one who gets the privilege of doing the coveted in-game bench interviews with Pete Weber and Stanley Cup winning coach, Terry Crisp.  So obviously, acceptable English speaking skills and a good attitude are a must to compliment ability to prevent the puck from slipping past the goal line.  The next few months will be a true test of David Poile and staff’s ability to properly assess talent and react accordingly. 

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 17: Goalie Mark Dekanich #31 of the Nashville Predators skates during an NHL pre-season game at the Sommet Center on September 17, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Mark Dekanich…our future #2? (Photo Source: Yardbarker.com)

With the departure of Dan Ellis to the Tampa Bay Lightning, what is the Nashville front office doing to fill the vacant space at the end of the bench?  So far this off-season, the Predators have not made a move in free agency to fill their need for a backup.  If anything, they’ve taken a step backwards in letting Dan Ellis fly south to the Lightning, although his departure probably could not have been reasonably prevented.  There is speculation that the coaches may wait until training camp or the preseason to make a free-agency move, if they make one at all.  They may want to evaluate our minor league talent and promote from within, rather than signing a potentially higher priced backup.  As mentioned before, a few seasons ago, Dan Ellis came out of nowhere to beat Pekka Rinne out in the preseason to win the backup and eventually the starting job.  If this “farm system” strategy comes to fruition, Mark Dekanich would likely get the nod to backup Pekka Rinne.  Dekanich, 24, finished the 2009-2010 season with the Milwaukee Admirals at a very respectable 27-16-4 and a goals against average of 2.33.  The other, albeit less likely, option is Chet Pickard who is a 20 year old backup for the Ads.  Although scouting reports say Pickard could have a bright future ahead of him, his lack of experience will likely play a key role in the decision making process. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 6: Goaltender Kevin Weekes #80 of the New York Rangers sits on the bench during the game against the New Jersey Devils on February 6, 2007 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Does Kevin Weekes like country music? We hope… (Photo Source: Yardbarker.com)

Nashville’s other option is to pick up a proven goalie, who has yet to be signed during free agency, at good value.  Section 303 and Preds On The Glass have blogged that Kevin Weekes would be an excellent choice to backup Rinne.  The guys at Section 303 also featured Weekes on their 303:30 podcast.  I would also have to agree that Weekes could be a good fit.  Although Weekes is technically retired, an athlete coming out of retirement has become a pretty common occurrence these days…sigh…goodbye Brett Favre, for now anyways.  Weekes would bring some solid experience to the team and has proven his ability to wear the bulky pads and play at a relatively high level.  Also, Weekes would likely come at a lower price tag, given his age and current retired status.  Should Weekes come to the Music City, I’d happily give my stamp of approval.  (I’m sure Mr. Weekes would sleep soundly knowing that he has my endorsement.)

Although ‘K-DUB-ble U’ would give the Preds a low-priced veteran who understands his role as a backup, there are still viable unrestricted free agent options that the Predators can look at.  Guys like Manny Legace, Andrew Raycroft, and Curtis Sanford have done their time at the NHL level and have still yet to sign with a pro squad.  Vets like these could also get cheaper as time goes by and the season draws near, so waiting a few weeks to sign one of them (or a comparable player) could be a smart move.   Would they be willing to sign for what the Preds have to offer?  I honestly have no idea.  Trying to predict what our front office will do next has never been my forte.  I’d like to hear from you readers to get your opinions on what the Predators should/could/might do to fill the backup goalie position.  Heck, if they just need a guy to give bench-side analysis, I’d be happy to sign on for the league minimum…as long as it’s a one-way deal and I don’t get traded to Detroit or San Jose.   

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  • Greg

    I saw no mention of Anders Lindback. From what I’ve seen and heard, he is a Swedish clone of Peks. I also believe Dekanich is unsigned for now, whatever that’s worth.

    • http://predlines.com Nathan T. Harper

      Greg: First of all, thanks so much for commenting on the post. We really appreciate it. Here are my humble opinions on Lindback and Dekanich. Lindback is definitely in our farm system and technically available to the team, but I find it hard to believe that Poile would promote him to the NHL with not even a single minute played at the American League level. That being said, there is some good talent in the Swedish league and stranger things have happened. As far as Dekanich, he is a restricted free agent, so one would think if they decided he was the man, a qualifying offer would likely be made.

      I don’t know too much about Lindback, but there is talk that he could be the second coming of Pekka? Ha!…just a little more fuel to the goalie controversy fire I guess.

      Take Care.

  • http://www.predlines.com Amanda

    True Greg, and Poile is really big on Linback. Maybe Nathan sees him in Milwaukee? I also like the idea of Jose Theodore. But as Jim Diamond pointed out at the Examiner, Poile hasn’t talked to him despite the rumor.

  • http://predlines.com Nathan T. Harper

    I’ll wear a Lindback to Milwaukee hat. I would also love to welcome JT aboard, but I think he would command a little too much and may not buy into the backup role. I think he’s got starting juice left in his tank.

  • Greg

    It’s a good problem to have in my opinion. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Poile’s draft philosophy is to take the best available player despite what position they are at in an effort to acquire the best assets. How he has never won best GM is beyond my comprehension. With our modest budget year in and year out, one would peg the Preds as a bottom-feeding club. But our boys continue to defy the odds and produce quality hockey. You know why we don’t have a superstar? Cuz we’ve never been bad enough to have a top 5 pick. I know Amanda and other fans can sometimes be non-believers in Poile, but based on his track record, I have full confidence in him making the right decisions for our club.

  • http://www.predlines.com Amanda

    Non believer? Greg you know I love DP. I just complain and get bored watching every trade deadline go by with nothing to show for it when we are making a push for the playoffs.

    This was the first year for GM of the Year Award and Poile was a candidate… if these off season moves pan out, he’ll win it next year.

  • Greg

    Ah. Alright then. I stand corrected. I’ll agree with you with the trade deadline thing. But honestly, who other than Steve Sullivan has been worth it? Witt, Forsberg and others were acquired and we got nothing to show for it. I give Grebs a pass since well……. he needs to wear a better cup. As I said, its all about assets and young talent and draft picks are gold to Poile

  • predswilrule

    w/ the glut of goalies available i do believe we wait until, or very near, camp. i dont see theodore being here though. too much money. we likely will have a lesser known, but experienced as an nhl backup, name. something like a legace, danis, valiquette type in the near minimum range.