Nashville Predators: Hard to admit, but it’s time for life after Rinne

(Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

As any real Nashville Predators fan would tell you, Rinne has been a fixture  for long enough to replace Luke Bryan in the hierarchy of Music City stars.

But I am going to throw a crazy idea at you, Nashville Predators fans, and say maybe, just maybe, it is time to move on.

The Finnish netminder has appeared in 508 games for the Predators, starting in all but 12 of those appearances. Pekka Rinne‘s .917 career save percentage and 2.38 goals allowed are solid, elite-franchise goalie type numbers, especially in Nashville where the better part of those numbers were with modest talent in front of him.

But the big question here is that do you really need an “elite” goaltender to win a Stanley Cup?

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Well, do you?

Let’s face it David Poile has shoved all his chips in the middle for this run. He has locked up his first line for the next five years and has given himself enough wiggle room in cap space to make the necessary moves to ensure a Finals run every season for the foreseeable future.

As sad as it makes me, I think No. 35 is the expendable piece in this puzzle. If the Predators start slow and are looking for a spark, I see no reason why Laviolette would not go to the young Saros. He was solid last season (excluding the few times in the Penguins series where he was thrown into an impossible situation) and he may not have the experience yet, but he at least showed poise.

With two years remaining on the deal, at $7 million per, it is time to spend some money elsewhere. We have what is arguably the most talented defenseman in hockey and it would be great to put one more elite goal scorer in the mix. No one is higher on Fiala and the young core than me, but you can never have enough guys to put the puck in the net.

You don’t need elite to win in the playoffs. You need scorching, on fire, and flaming Cheetos hot (see Matthew Murray in 2016 and 2017). Marginal regular seasons, but peaking at the right time, is all you need from a goaltender come May.

Names say it all

Let’s take a look at the last 5 Stanley Cup Finals matchups and the winning goaltenders.

2017 – Matt Murray (PIT) vs. Pekka Rinne (NSH)

2016 – Matt Murray (PIT) vs. Martin Jones (SJS)

2015 – Corey Crawford (CHI) vs. Ben Bishop (TBL)

2014 – Jonathan Quick (LAK) vs. Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)

2013 – Corey Crawford (CHI) vs. Tuukka Rask (BOS)

Now, is there anyone, MAYBE with the exception of Henrik Lundqvist that you consider elite? And so what if he is elite? Has he been able to carry a very marginal blue line and inconsistent scoring anywhere in the Eastern Conference since 2014? Jonathan Quick is stuck in a division with Connor McDavid, whatever elite he had in him is gone.

You can however roll guys in between the pipes and find yourself hoisting Lord Stanley’s trophy at the end of the year. Seven-million dollars could go a LONG way in fixing some scoring lapses the Predators ran into in the Finals.

It will be a sad day, and I am sure the tribute video will be superb when Pekka heads back to town wearing different colors and standing in the opposite net. But let’s not waste the window we currently have in order to keep a player in Nashville just because. Yes, he is a fan favorite, but can Saros  put up similar numbers at a much cheaper price?

Next: Meet your New and Improved Offense

If the Predators struggle out of the gate, then I think it could be time to find out.