Four months later and I still can’t get over the gigantic performance that Connor Ingram put forth in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to nearly push the Nashville Predators to victory over the heavily-favored Colorado Avalanche.
Even though that ended in a heartbreaking overtime loss, it was thought for sure that the 49-save performance sealed the deal for Ingram to enter the 2022-23 season as the primary backup to Juuse Saros.
The front office and head coaches clearly see it another way and have a bigger plan ahead for the 25-year-old netminder. One that’s hard to pinpoint right now.
Despite a small sample size, the plan was perceived to be that Ingram was at the very least ready to be in the NHL in a backup role. The David Rittich experiment didn’t go well, but it was at least buying time for Ingram to develop for one more season in the AHL. Or so we thought.
What is the Nashville Predators’ master plan for Ingram?
The goaltender situation for the Milwaukee Admirals is jam packed right now, which made the addition of Kevin Lankinen to the Predators roster even more unexpected. The Admirals will have Ingram likely as their main starter, but also have Devin Cooley and Yaroslav Askarov available.
We all know about the upside Askarov carries with him and he’s expected to see plenty of games as he was deprived of regular playing time in the KHL and VHL. Cooley doesn’t have nearly the upside of Ingram or Askarov, so I’m not sure where he’ll fit into all of this.
Going back to Ingram, he should be considered one of the top goaltenders in the AHL this year and it’s fair to think he has capped out in his AHL development. This is why it’s so hard to understand the front office’s plan for him this season.
Could Ingram be trade bait later this season for a goalie deprived team that’s dumping assets to rebuild? That is my first thought witht his whole Ingram going back to the AHL plan. There are a handful of team out there who don’t have stable situations at goaltender and would love to take Ingram onto their roster.
Ingram’s number on their surface are pretty bad in his brief time in the NHL, but if you were watching many of those games, you would remember that the team played horribly in front of him as well.
Ingram made just three regular season starts, with his top performance coming in his NHL debut against the Minnesota Wild making 33 saves and only giving up two goals for the win. His other two starts were underwhelming, both with sub-90 percent save percentages.
Perhaps the Predators just feel they don’t have 100 percent trust in Ingram to have the full-time backup role to Saros, which is important to make a deep run down the stretch of a gruleing 82-game season.
Saros made 67 starts last season, which led the NHL, and I’m sure it’s a priority to make sure he doesn’t have to be used as heavily this season. They must not feel supremely confident in Ingram getting around 20 starts or so, and instead trust Lankinen.
I can understand to a degree that Lankinen is a little more trustworthy because he has two full NHL seasons under his belt. His rookie campaign was commendable with a .909 save percentage, but last season saw his numbers dip considerably for a terrible Blackhawks team.
This could very well be Ingram’s last season with Preds
It’s really hard to say what the future holds for Ingram in a Nashville Predators uniform, but I have to stay I’m leaning heavily towards he is either traded to boost the roster near the trade deadline, or we do this all over again this time next year to see if they think he’s ready for the NHL backup role.
Is another full season in the AHL for Ingram really going to tell us much? That’s where my problem is with this situation and makes me believe the Predators might trade him. Especially if Lankinen has a strong season and they decide to retain him for another year.
Things might get even more complicated if Lankinen plays like a true starter and posts strong numbers behind Saros, because then the team will have to either negotiate a higher contract for a backup, or call up Ingram again and let Lankinen test free agency again.
Either way, both Ingram and Lankinen will be due for new contracts and you’re obviously not keeping both. The Nashville Predators will have a tricky decision to make next summer.
A lot of variables are in play before we know exactly what will happen with Ingram. He’s been through a lot and I’m hoping that he does enough whether in the AHL, or if he gets called up again to the NHL due to injury, to persuade coaches that he belongs in Nashville for at least a couple more seasons until he can get a starter’s role elsewhere.
Ingram should dominate on the AHL level and make the Milwaukee Admirals a very formidable team once again as they’ll have a solid group of goaltenders led by him.