Nashville Predators reunite with Mitch Korn as Director of Goaltending

Minnesota Wild v Nashville Predators
Minnesota Wild v Nashville Predators / Frederick Breedon/GettyImages

The Nashville Predators are continuing to make moves this offseason and the most recent one is not exactly flashy, but one that should pay great dividends for the organization. They brought legendary goaltending coach Mitch Korn back to the staff, and he will now be their Director of Goaltending.

The first thing about this move that jumps out as making sense is that Korn and Barry Trotz go way back, as they have been together for all but the last two years since 1998. Second of all, and as mentioned, Korn has an illustrious resume when it comes to working with goaltenders in the NHL.

Predators fans know how well he did with Pekka Rinne, but he has done impeccable work with other goaltenders such as Dominik Hasek, Braden Holtby, Semyon Varlamov, and Ilya Sorokin. He was behind the bench when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, and it was sensational to watch Holtby simply take over and rebound from a poor 2017-18 regular season.

I could type paragraphs on end containing evidence of Korn's excellence, but part of what makes this move so good and so interesting for the Predators is the timing of it. They will have to make some major decisions at goaltender very soon, and no matter what happens, fans can rest easy knowing that whoever is in net will be under Korn's watch.

Yaroslav Askarov could greatly benefit from Mitch Korn's guidance

Everyone knows that Juuse Saros is the name to watch for the Nashville Predators this offseason, as he has one year remaining on his contract. The hope is that he is traded or extended by the time the 2024-25 season begins, and many would prefer a trade as opposed to paying him $8M or more per year.

The obvious risk there is that the Predators would lock themselves into Yaroslav Askarov being their future in net, and he is unproven at the NHL level. Even if he is one of the most highly touted goaltender prospects in recent memory, the fact is you do not know what he will be in the NHL, and putting that much pressure on him and the team could be dangerous.

Suddenly, with Korn joining the Predators, the idea of dealing Saros and giving the reigns to Askarov is much more palatable to those who were skeptical. Obviously, Korn cannot be the guy to make or break Askarov, but knowing his talent, track record so far, and Korn's track record, it is hard to imagine that Korn would not be a huge help to Askarov.

Askarov now has a few strong years of AHL play under his belt and has shown his ridiculous skill, most notably his recovery ability to make saves and aggressiveness to eliminate scoring chances.

That being said, there is still concern about him being ready for an actual role in the NHL, and that is mostly because of his showing in this year's AHL playoffs. Askarov has had a postseason riddled with poor performances and a recent injury, which is a very untimely development for someone who is pushing for a spot in Nashville next season.

Trotz did not seem very concerned about it at the Predators' end of season press conference, acknowledging that Askarov is close to being NHL-ready. No matter what, there is going to be significant development needed for him once he gets to the next level, but it is a huge relief that he will be in good hands during that process.

Korn will be trusted to successfully develop Askarov, and rightfully so, given what he has gotten out of talent in his career. Unless Askarov shows something about himself that is truly irredeemable, which he has not, there is every reason to feel good about his future right now.

Even Saros, if he ends up staying, could see improvements in his game under Korn, for as good as he already is. One of the few blemishes in his game is that he struggles to make saves while screened, which makes sense as a short goaltender, but Korn has worked with goaltenders who are on the shorter side, so it is plausible that he can improve Saros in this area.

What happens with the Predators in net is a mystery at this point, because Trotz has expressed many times that he likes Saros and wants to sign him to a long-term extension. At the same time, will Trotz want to pay Saros an expensive deal with a potentially generational talent in the system, along with one of the best coaches in the business?

Either way, it seems like the Predators will be able to keep their franchise tradition of not having to worry about the goaltending position anytime soon.