Despite all indications that the Nashville Predators would heavily pursue an addition to the top-six during free agency, instead they threw everyone a curveball by addressing the backup goaltender role.
In what I had to actually see to believe from the Nashville Predators team account before buying it, they signed former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million:
Nashville Predators throw another curveball this offseason
First off, this is absolutely no disrespect towards Lankinen whatsoever. He’s going to be a high-quality backup to Juuse Saros, and there’s no reason why the Predators shouldn’t have one of the best one-two goalie punches in the NHL next season. That’s all well and good.
What is puzzling about this is going out to make this signing when the other major need still hasn’t been addressed, and you also already have a young backup in Connor Ingram who everyone thought was the shoe-in for fulltime backup role in 2022-23.
How wrong was almost everyone when it comes to General Manager David Poile’s offseason plans? He’s been doing this a long time, so perhaps he has the master plan that will all make sense eventually.
Now this makes you wonder if Ingram is part of a pending trade package that Poile is working on. That’s the only way I can make sense of this, and that also maybe the organization doesn’t have as much confidence in Ingram that the fans have. That’s all I got to make this make sense.
Lankinen is just the latest departure of a Blackhawks team that is selling off what seems like everything but Seth Jones and the scoreboard operators. They are completely ripping it all down.
It was also not what you would call an uplifthing season for Lankinen last season, albeit for a putrid Blackhawks team where no one really had a good season except Alex DeBrincat. He’s gone too now, by the way.
Lankinen managed just a 3.50 GAA last season in 32 appearances, including 29 starts. A significant slide from his rookie campaign when he was at a respectable 3.01 GAA and came in 13th in the Calder Trophy voting.
With a much better team in front of him, Lankinen is capable of hopefully giving Saros more rest and not such a heavy workload that could wear him down for the ladder part of the season. That’s your hope.
It’s been made clear that they want a backup goaltender who can get north of 20 starts to relieve Saros’ workload, so that should be no problem for Lankinen as he has 66 starts over his first two NHL seasons.
Lankinen’s journey to the NHL is inspiring considering he’s undrafted and had no North American experience before joining the Blackhawks in 2018. He got all of his playing experience in his path to the NHL in Finland’s Liiga.
Career Numbers for Lankinen vs. Preds
6 games, 1-4-1 record, .902 SV %, 3.00 GAA
Again, my issue isn’t with Lankinen the player, but more that Ingram is capable of servicing the backup role and deserves the chance to show that. At the very least I figured the Predators would see what they have in him on a more full-time role on the roster behind Saros, and then go from there.
Lankinen is a modest upgrade from David Rittich, who expectedly wasn’t retained this offseason. However, it just doesn’t move the needle enough for me to think this team got better over just keeping Ingram as your backup.
This is just the latest of what’s been a rollercoaster of an offseason for the Nashville Predators full of unexpected curves. And they might not be done just yet.