The Nashville Predators are happy to get Pekka Rinne back in net. However, Juuse Saros stood tall in his fellow Finn’s place. Saros stepped in when Rinne went down with an injury October 19th against the Calgary Flames.
The Forssa, Finland native went 3-2 and .917 save percentage during the stretch and turned in some great performances. He shut out the Edmonton Oilers on October 20th and held the Vegas Golden Knights to just one goal on October 30th.
Juuse Saros Stands Tall
Saros has been tabbed as the heir apparent to his fellow countryman. Rinne has been the main goalie for Nashville for years. He’s played at least 59 games the last four seasons and appeared in a career-high 73 in 2011-12.
The defending Vezina Trophy winner has carried the load so many seasons because the Predators didn’t really have much goaltending depth. However, Saros has been fantastic as a backup in his first two seasons with the club.
Saros started consecutive games for the first time in his career and looked like a veteran in doing so.
“I felt like (I) handled it pretty well,” Saros said to The Tennessean. “I didn’t think about it too much, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Ryan Hartman compared the Rinne and Saros partnership to that of Corey Crawford and Scott Darling had a few seasons ago when Hartman played with the Chicago Blackhawks. Goalies can wear down from having to play a large chunk of games, but a strong backup can help keep the number one fresh. Rinne could be fresher for a long playoff run if Saros can pick up more games.
Time to Grow
Rinne was in the last year of his contract and many thought general manager David Poile would have to make a decision on who’s in the crease next season. However, Rinne was recently given a two-year deal worth $10 million ($5 million AAV) that will give Saros more time grow.
Rinne is 36 years old and commands a salary of $7 million while Saros makes $1.5 million a year until the 2021-22 campaign. The two years will give Saros more time to absorb every bit of knowledge from his fellow Finn.
Poile knows that Saros is the future starter for the Predators. It’s just a question of when the 5-foot-11 inch Finn takes over for his taller compatriot. Nashville has a window to finally hoist a Stanley Cup, but will they want one more shot with Rinne or is the future now with Saros?
What it Means for the Future
Nashville has made its decision and will give Rinne a couple of more chances to lift the Stanley Cup. Rinne had a shaky series against the Winnipeg Jets, but there’s no doubt he’s still one of the better goalies in the league
Nashville has young talent that is mostly locked up at a reasonable price. Their defence is still one of the best in the league but will have Roman Josi, Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber becoming free agents at the end of the next season. Rinne taking the hometown discount helps give the team some flexibility.
Saros seems to be ready to step up no matter when he becomes the full-time starting goalie for the Predators. Whether that’s in two years after Rinne’s contract runs out or sooner due to injury is anyone’s guess. However, the Predators’ netminding duties are in capable hands.
NASHVILLE, TENN. – Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros. (Getty Images)