Solving the backup goaltender spot be has not been on the list of things to do in recent years for the Nashville Predators. But after deciding to move on from Carter Hutton, who signed a two-year, $2.25 million with the St. Louis Blues on Friday, the Predators will have to determine Pekka Rinne’s backup for next season at September’s training camp.
Mazanec vs. Saros
Mazanec, 24, is the early favorite to backup Rinne. Nashville’s sixth round (179th overall) selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has already made 27 appearances for the Preds, but his last outing was two seasons ago. He has a career 8-11-0 record with a 2.77 goals-against average, a .902 save-percentage and two shutouts.
Saros has a solid case for the position, too, though. The 21-year-old outplayed Mazanec in Milwaukee (AHL) in his first professional season in North America. Saros was 29-8-0 with a 2.24 GAA and a .920 save-percentage, while Mazanec was 19-15-5 with a 2.45 GAA and a .912 save-percentage.
“I will do my best [at training camp], and we’ll see where I’m at,” Saros said earlier this week at Nashville’s development camp. “It would nice to be with [Rinne] again.”
Saros backed Rinne up at the World Championships in 2013 and 2014 for the Finnish national team. As a more experienced fellow countryman, Rinne can teach Saros a lot. Rinne has already done so in the little time the two have been together.
“In training camp, Peks helped us Finns out a lot. It’s a nice thing, and I thank him,” Saros said.
— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) June 28, 2016
If Saros fails to earn the backup role in Nashville, it will not be the end of the world for him. Actually, it is best if he spends another year as the starter in Milwaukee.
“That’s a good option too, to get games there and continue developing,” said Saros. “I won’t be angry about [not making the Predators]. I can just continue developing.”
In the process of adjusting to the North American game last season, Saros said he did not have make any technique changes but had to work on puck handling and being aware of sharp angle shots.
Nashville’s training camp will open Sep. 22, and the battle for the backup position will be among the things to watch entering the season.