Nashville Predators take a lengthy gamble with Juuse Saros contract extension

After lingering on for a while and even seeing plenty of trade rumors, the Preds finally have reached a deal with franchise goalie Juuse Saros.
Nashville Predators v Philadelphia Flyers
Nashville Predators v Philadelphia Flyers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

It had been hanging over the heads of the Nashville Predators organization and was starting to become a distraction, but the new deal is finally reportedly agreed upon with Juuse Saros.

Although it's not official yet, the Predators are expected to sign Saros to an enormous eight-year contract extension worth a reported $7.74 million AAV, per Chris Johnston of The Athletic. It will be filed on Monday.

The length of the term is what is worrisome to me. The AAV is actually totally fair and gives Saros over a $2.5 million pay increase per year from his current $5 million that he's under for one more season.

This will move Saros up to being the fourth-highest paid goalie in the NHL on per year salary. The three higher paid goalies will be Andrei Vasilevskiy ($10M), Connor Hellebuyck ($10M) and Ilya Sorokin ($8.25M).

And to be fair, those top-three goalie contracts are also lengthy with Hellebuyck just signing last October for seven years, Sorokin for eight years and Vasilevskiy for eight years. So the Predators aren't acting out of the ordinary by any means in giving Saros this lengthy of a contract term.

Saros' per year deal also comes just slightly ahead of Jordan Binnington's $7.5 million AAV. The next big goalie contract to come down and reset the market is Igor Shesterkin who is due to be a UFA in 2025 and expected to get a contract extension soon. So it was wise for Barry Trotz to stay ahead of this.

Looking at this contract extension with the glass half full, the AAV is extremely fair and could end up working out great for both sides. Saros got his long-term commitment, and later on down the line this AAV could once again end up being a bargain if the goalie market continues to tick upwards.

The glass half empty outlook is Saros has virtually zero playoff success and is coming off a down year, at least by his standards. But the Predators were also in a difficult situation because they couldn't really find a trade that was worth dealing Saros away. The goalie trade market was really underwhelming, including what the Flames got for Jacob Markstrom.

Looking ahead to 2024-25, Saros will now be under a major microscope to perform at a very high level. He has been a bargain player that was underpaid ever since he became the No.1 starter for the retired Pekka Rinne, but now that expectation ramps up. Saros will no longer get the benefit of the doubt and will be looked to be at the elite level that justifies giving eight years.

This almost certainly means that top goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov is now on the trade block. It could even happen during the draft, which starts today. Reports are that the Predators are interested in acquiring a backup goalie, and that Askarov will spend another year in the AHL.

It's unclear if the Predators want to explore bringing back Lankinen as the backup again with him being a UFA, or if the Predators are looking elsewhere on the market. Looking at UFA backup caliber goalies, there isn't a whole lot out there to get you excited. Maybe there's a trade out there to find a backup, because free agency goalie market looks terrible.

If that is indeed the plan, the Predators need to absolutely trade Askarov. I don't see a point in bypassing trade offers just for the talented Askarov to play another season in the minors. He's clearly not a part of the long-term future of the Predators franchise now, so send him to an organization that has a quicker path for him to the NHL.

It will take a few years to truly know if the Predators are making the right decision on this or not. Without the benefit of hindsight, you can't fault the Predators for taking the more conservative route on locking up Saros for eight years rather than rolling the dice with an unproven Askarov.

This always felt like a damned if you do, damned if you don't type of situation for the Predators. Saros will now be expected to deliver not just in the regular season, but absolutely come playoff time. He has to deliver when it matters most now and pull this team out of their first round playoff curse that plagues them back to 2018.

In this past series against the Canucks, Saros finished with a .900 save percentage, a rock solid 2.02 GAA and a commendable 3.5 Goals Saved Above Expected. He just got absolutely no goal support.

In other news regarding Saros, he was announced as the goalie for Finland in the Four Nations Faceoff which will be played in February. Filip Forsberg was also announced for Sweden.