The Nashville Predators have signed goaltending prospect Juuse Saros to a three-year entry-level contract, the team announced this morning in a media release.
Saros was the Predators’ fourth-round selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, and spent last season playing with HPK of Finland’s SM-Liiga. He played 47 games for HPK, and placed in the top five in most major statistical categories, including shutouts, Save%, and GAA.
He also spent time representing Team Finland at the 2015 IIHF World Championships as back-up to Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Saros stopped 22 shots en route to a shutout in his lone appearance of the tournament. The shutout was the third of four straight for Finland.
The Predators now have four goalies under contract for next season: Rinne, Carter Hutton, Marek Mazanec, and Saros. With this deal, and Mazanec’s new one-year deal, it seems unlikely that Magnus Hellberg will be sticking around much longer. Hellberg is a RFA this Summer, and despite making the AHL All-Star team this season, he is likely the odd man out.
Here is the official release from the team:
“Nashville, Tenn. (June 16, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed netminder Juuse Saros to a three-year entry-level contract. Nashville’s fourth choice, 99th overall (fourth round), in the 2013 Draft is expected to play his first North American professional season in 2015-16.
Saros, 20 (4/19/95), appeared in 47 of HPK’s 60 Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) contests in 2014-15, ranking among the league’s Top Five in shutouts (6), minutes played (2773:53), save percentage (.929) and goals-against average (2.14) in his second full season in the league. He was named 2013-14 Finnish Elite League Rookie of the Year after ranking second among the Top Three in goals-against average (1.76), and save percentage (.928) becoming just the fourth goalie to win the award in its 40-year history. During his final Finnish junior league season in 2012-13, the Forssa, Finland native was named best player and recipient of the Jorma Valtonen Award as the league’s top goaltender after leading all netminders in goals-against average (1.86) and save percentage (.933).
The 5-11, 176-pounder represented Finland at both the World Championship and the World Junior Championship for the second consecutive year in 2015, backing up Predators netminder Pekka Rinne at the 2015 World Championship and stopping all 22 shots he faced in his lone appearance of the tournament against Slovakia to record Finland’s third of four consecutive shutouts. At the 2014 World Junior Championship, he led Finland to its first Gold Medal at the tournament since 1987, receiving Media All-Star Team honors after leading all goaltenders in save percentage (.943) and goals-against average (1.57) in six games. He was also named Best Goalkeeper of the 2013 Under-18 World Championship and one of Finland’s three best players of the tournament in helping them claim the bronze medal.”