Nashville Predators: What Contract is Juuse Saros Really Worth?

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) and goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) talk at the bench against the Carolina Hurricanes in game one of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) and goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) talk at the bench against the Carolina Hurricanes in game one of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

As the NHL offseason rolls along through somewhat of a down period, the Nashville Predators have a major cloud hanging over their heads trying to negotiate Juuse Saros‘ new contract.

Per a report from Adam Vingan of The Athletic, the two sides still seem very far apart on what they’re looking for in a new contract:

The Nashville Predators have always been a team that’s been set at goaltender, thanks in large part to Pekka Rinne‘s Hall of Fame worthy career. But even before Rinne, the franchise has usually enjoyed stability at this position and is a huge reason for their consistency over the last decade.

The tides are changing, however, if the unthinkable happens with these current negotiations with Saros.

Nashville Predators front office in a tricky position

The Predators front office is in quite the dilemma when it comes to the future at goaltender in Nashville.

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Saros played like a true Vezina Trophy goaltender down the second half of last season, which basically carried his team into a seventh-straight playoff berth.

Saros had a similar hot streak down the stretch of 2019-2020 to propel the Predators into the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

The stellar stretch of play that Saros treated us to last season is the reason we’re in this situation, with the salary arbitration hearing date now less than a week away (August 18).

This needs to get settled before then, or even yesterday if you ask me.

Another reason why this is a tricky negotiation is everyone expects the 11th-overall draft pick from 2020,  Iaroslav Askarov, to be the next great goaltender for the Predators franchise. But he’s at least three years away from making the jump into the NHL, and that’s probably being a little too optimistic.

You can’t offer Saros what’s being reported of just $3-$4M per year. The term of four years is a length I’m totally on board with, but a $4M per year offer is a cheap offer that rubs me the wrong way if I’m Saros.

The goaltender market and how that affects Saros

Based on what the goaltender market is looking like this offseason, Saros has earned around $5M per year. My estimation is that when this gets settled eventually, that the two sides will fall somewhere in the middle of $4M and $5M AAV.

The latest noteworthy goaltender signing is Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers who just got a four-year, $22.7M contract, per PuckPedia. That’s approximately an AAV of $5.66M per year.

Even Carter Hart, who just had a horrendous season, just got a deal that’s just under $4M per year for three years. Obviously Carter has a lot of upside at 22-years-old, but so does Saros as he enters the prime of his career at age 26.

Petr Mrazek of the Maple Leafs signed on July 28 signed a three-year deal worth $3.8M per year. And again, Saros was reportedly offered between $3M and $4M per year? That just doesn’t add up to me.

Giving Saros around $5M per year is definitely a risk, but he’s earned it and you can’t mess with the goaltender position and leave yourself out in the cold without a viable goaltender before Askarov is ready to take over.

I’m sorry, but this might be the worst team in the league (say hello to Buffalo) if Saros isn’t in net. I like the back-up signing of David Rittich, but he’s not your short-term answer to be the primary starter.

The goalie market says that Saros should fall in around the $4.5-$5M range, but the length of the contract is also what’s probably hanging these negotiations up. Four years is fair and makes sense from the Predators’ point of view, but I’m not so sure that Saros’ side is pleased with just four years.

Salary arbitration is a regular occurrence, so I’m not going to sit here and overreact when it comes to the optics of this. I would, however, like to see this get settled before the hearing date. Saros is the Team MVP, and he deserves to be paid as such regardless of what’s coming down the pipeline in three or four years.

The front office, with General Manager David Poile at the lead, needs to meet in the middle somewhere with Saros’ camp and move forward to 2021-22, which figures to be a season full of growing pains and young players trying to prove they’re regulars on the NHL level.

Next. Projecting the Nashville Predators Lines for 2021-22. dark

If I were to bet on when Saros and the front office come to an agreement, I would bet it happens sometime this week before the hearing date.

The terms of the deal that I would be happy with for both sides is four years, $5M AAV. However, I won’t be surprised if Saros gets below $5M, which could make things even more complicated down the road if he feels wronged by the organization for a low offer.