Nashville Predators: Predicting Juuse Saros’ Next Contract

One thing has been made very clear this season — Juuse Saros is the future in net for the Nashville Predators at this point in time.

He did not look good early in the season, but has rebounded admirably and done well enough to boast numbers (.926 save percentage and 2.27 goals against average)  to put him in the Vezina Trophy conversation.

Saros has been the backbone of the Nashville Predators’ insane turnaround, and the organization has shown all season that they are committed to him being the main netminder now and moving forward.  With that being said, he might be in for a massive pay-raise this offseason.

Saros’ current contract expires at the end of this season, and then might be the time for GM David Poile to sign his promising young goaltender for years to come.  However, I’m not convinced that Saros will get the lucrative contract he is hoping to get.

Here are the factors to consider when predicting his next contract.

Sluggish starts 

Several words that you can use to describe Saros’ play over the recent few years are admirable, impressive, highly talented, inspiring, and many others of that kind.  One word you cannot use, however, is consistent.

Ever since the beginning of last season, when Saros started to take on a larger role with the Predators, he hasn’t been strong out of the gate.  He struggled last year until just after the head coaching change, taking even longer to get on track than he took this season.

Even at the Stanley Cup qualifiers in Edmonton, when the team and fans had high hopes for him, Saros once again reverted to early season form.

What all of this makes me believe is that Saros is the exact type of player who gets better as the season goes on.

This is not super worrisome to me, there are several players in sports who need time to get back into the rhythm and flow of the game after a long break.  You also have to expect that Saros will be able to grow out of this as his career goes on as he is still young and has never played an entire season as the true, full-time starter.

In terms of contract negotiations right now, I cannot help but think that Saros’ slow starts to seasons might lower his leverage.

Free agency status

While Saros’ current contract is up at the end of this year, you have to remember that he is a restricted free agent and is not allowed to freely negotiate with other teams.

Unless Saros  signs an offer sheet that the Predators don’t match, or he is traded, two things I absolutely cannot see happening, he will be back on the team next year.

Since Saros doesn’t have a choice on who he plays for next year, the Predators’ organization will ultimately hold leverage in contract negotiations.  But Saros is arbitration eligible, meaning that he doesn’t just have to take any deal in order to see the ice next season.

So what does this mean for Poile?  First of all, he must use his leverage to his advantage and only give Saros a contract that makes sense for the organization.

But ideally, they would prefer to lock Saros up before it comes down to arbitration.  Knowing what he has achieved within the past few seasons, the chance that Saros wins his arbitration case is more likely than not, so the Predators should show flexibility in negotiations in order to make sure it does not come down to that.

Players to compare to

I cannot do a contract prediction for any player without looking at comparable players’ contracts.  I wouldn’t say that these players were in identical statuses to where Saros is right now, but they were in similar situations and should give you a good idea of what his next contract will look like.

The full terms of these players’ contracts are listed as follows.

All contract figures via PuckPedia.com

The common theme for these young goaltenders was that their teams were hesitant to give them expensive, long-term deals, even after they had performed exceptionally.

Binnington was coming off of an insane run in which he willed his team to a Stanley Cup, and Murray was coming off of two consecutive Stanley Cups, yet neither one got a player-friendly contract.

Demko is the obvious outlier here, and the reason I throw him in here is because he, like Saros, has expectations of being the future goaltender for his team. Demko kept his team deep in the playoffs last year and has responded strongly this year, so it’s understandable why his deal was larger than the rest on this list.

Saros’ resume is better than Jarry’s and Blackwood’s at the time that both signed their respective contracts, so I would say that Jarry’s contract is the absolute floor for Saros, with Demko’s being the absolute ceiling.

Predicting Saros’ next contract with Nashville Predators

My official prediction for Saros’ next contract is three years,  $15.75M ($5.25M AAV).

With Saros’ inconsistency, the Predators opt not to commit to him long-term, but in order to avoid arbitration and incentivize him to sign a bridge deal, they also opt to pay a little more than they would like to.

Could Saros cash in on a much more lucrative deal this offseason?  Absolutely.

The season isn’t over yet, and if Saros were to take the Predators deep into the playoffs, I think Poile has to be willing to give Saros a deal way more than on the team-friendly side.

Like everyone else, I don’t see the Predators lasting more than six games if they make the postseason, but if they do, Saros could be in for a big reward.