It might be Pekka Rinne’s upcoming farewell tour for the Nashville Predators, but don’t count him out to put up one more highly successful season.
As we enter a shortened NHL season, Rinne’s time as a member of the Predators is quickly coming to an end in all likelihood. He’s entering the last year of his contract, and I can’t see the Predators re-signing him.
Rinne may decide to retire from the NHL, or he may find a Stanley Cup contending team to be a backup for in 2021-22. That part is still very much uncertain.
Uncharted territory for Rinne
As for now, Rinne is entering the new season as the backup to Juuse Saros. Unfamiliar territory for arguably the best player in team history, and one that has certainly put up Hall of Fame worthy numbers over his 14-year NHL career that has him 5th all-time among active players in games played (659).
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Now he just needs that elusive Stanley Cup to put him over the top. He probably won’t get it in Nashville this year, but even if it’s somewhere else, we’d all be happy for him.
There’s just no way around it; last season was a rough one for Rinne, and quite frankly the entire Predators team. They fell way short of expectations and didn’t play well enough in front of their goaltenders.
Confidence in Rinne is pretty low among fans that he can channel his Vezina Trophy season into one more run with the Predators. With that said, I’m not betting against him.
Rinne is coming back completely refreshed and knows his new role on the Predators. He’s going in as the backup, and can flourish in this spot. Being the team-first player that he is, expect him to come out in top form.
Backups have a critical role, and there’s probably going to be plenty of back-to-back scenarios on the schedule that will call on backups to perform well.
Head Coach John Hynes, heading into his first full season behind the bench for the Predators, told Brooks Bratten recently about the importance of Rinne in this new role:
Rinne has the chance to go out strong
None of this means that Rinne can turn the Predators around on his own. That pressure is on Saros, the top two forward lines and the new additions to the roster.
What Rinne can bring to the Predators is veteran leadership and the ability to steal games when the rest of the team isn’t playing at their best. Even at this stage towards the end of his career, his knack for making incredible saves and stealing games is still there.
Furthermore, the team went out and addressed their defensive issues through numerous free agency signings that should in return benefit both Rinne and Saros.
You’re hoping it doesn’t come to this, but also don’t be surprised if Rinne has to be called upon more frequently than expected if Saros hits his own rough patch.
If the regular season ends up being around 56 games like it’s being reported, then I expect Rinne to get around 20 more starts in a Nashville Predators uniform. That’s 20 more starts to cement his legacy and go out on top.