Working behind the likes of goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback, there really isn’t a clear cut answer as to what the future holds for a third string goaltender in the Nashville Predators organization these days.
It might sound a bit overwhelming for a goaltender, having been drafted 146th overall in the 2006 entry draft by the Predators and having just a single game to show for in the National Hockey League. In Mark Dekanich’s case, this might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
A four-year college career with Colgate University was in the books for the North Vancouver, BC native. Having won 52 games for the Raiders from 2004 to 2008, Dekanich joined the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, the top minor league affiliate of the Nashville Predators. The challenges on the road to the National Hockey League were about to begin.
Dekanich started 30 games for the Admirals in the 2008-09 season, finishing his rookie campaign with a 15-10-2 record. As the backup to starting net-minder Drew MacIntyre, it was the first real stepping stone for Dekanich in the process of working his way up the organization’s depth chart.
Mark Dekanich moved into a #1 role for the Admirals the following season, posting a 27-16-4 record and finishing the 2009-10 season with three post season victories under his belt. By the time the off-season had arrived, expectations were already in full force that Mark Dekanich could potentially be the goaltender to backup Pekka Rinne for the 2010-11 season. Not so fast.
Drafted in the seventh round, (207th overall) in the 2008 NHL entry draft was Gavle, Sweden native Anders Lindback. A 6-foot-6, 205 pound giant who didn’t waste anytime entering the big picture and eventually moved past Dekanich on the depth chart after a strong performance at the 2010 training camp.
At the time, head coach Barry Trotz wasn’t concerned about the future of Mark Dekanich.
“I look at Mark Dekanich and I see Chris Mason. He’s a tremendous athlete with a tremendous work ethic. He has a lot of detail in his craft and he works on his craft. He’s going to be fine. I don’t have any worries about Mark Dekanich not being able to play in the National Hockey League,” Trotz said.
The possibility of a full time job in the NHL was real, but the chances of doing that while wearing the Predator sweater became less likely for Dekanich after posting 23 wins for the Admirals in the 2010-11 season. He decided to take his NHL potential to the open market on July 1st.
Enter the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team looking for a quality backup for starting goaltender Steve Mason. By evening time on July 1st, it became a reality that Mark Dekanich was that guy.
The Blue Jackets fan base was quick to browse the internet to dig up information on their new backup, not just because of a name they didn’t recognize, but due to the surprising one-way contract in place for the 2011-12 NHL season.
“I know their are people who look at [the Dekanich signing] and think we might be gambling. But, he’s a guy who has shown he can play at a high rate at the AHL level, and we’ve seen guys who have made these moves in the past few years,” Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel said.
According to Dekanich’s agent Steve Bartlett, it was a risk worth exploring from their side of the table.
“Nashville certainly had interest in having Mark back,” Bartlett told THW’s Mike Colligan. “It was one of those risk-reward lines where what they were offering to me couldn’t possibly get any worse and could only get better. I said to Mark, ‘let’s hang in there. I think for a young guy that’s not looking to break the bank, but maybe push for that one-way contract, I really think that this may be our year to maybe push that’.”
Barlett’s instincts were correct.
A low risk in terms of the salary cap hit of $575,000 for the 2011-12 season and a potentially high reward, it’s safe to say that it’s a good deal for all parties involved.
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Darren is the Washington Capitals correspondent. He spent the 2010-11 season covering the Atlanta Thrashers and the 2011-12 season covering the Columbus Blue Jackets. Feel free to contact him @ DKoz256@yahoo.com. You can also follow him on Twitter. DarrenCoslov