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.
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.
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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