In this edition of Nashville Predators News & Rumors, we look at the possible backup goaltender options if Pekka Rinne chooses to retire. Next, we’re going to take a look at Logan Stankoven, who The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler had ranked at number 18 on his top 100 list. Finally, we will look at what Eeli Tolvanen is projected to get as a restricted free agent this offseason and what a suitable offer might be for both sides.
One of the most significant pieces of news coming out of Nashville this season was the possibility that Rinne might retire. He’s done existential amounts for the team and community, and with the way his last game of the season ended, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hang the skates up. The Predators drafted Yaroslav Askarov in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s still under contract in the KHL and won’t be ready to come over for another year or two. With all of that in mind, that means the backup position is open for the taking. Connor Ingram has been thought of to be the guy, but due to a weird season in which he was on a leave of absence due to voluntarily entering the NHL/NHLPA’s player assistance program.
When he was in tandem with Troy Grosenick with the Milwaukee Admirals before the COVID-19 shutdown, he put up league-best numbers. In 33 games, he had the third-lowest goals-against average (GAA) of 1.92 behind Dan Vladar (BOS) and Igor Shesterkin (NYR) and the third-highest save percentage (SV%) of .933 behind the same players. Had he not been sidelined for most of the recent season, it would be more likely than not that he took the consistent backup role. If he shows well in the preseason, it could happen as well, but it might be wise for Poile to be looking for options as of right now.
What could those options look like? The Arizona Coyotes‘ Antti Raanta is the first that comes to mind. The 32-year-old has done considerably well in tandem with Darcy Kuemper and has become a staple of goaltending in the desert. With the state of the Coyotes, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him leave, considering there were rumors that he could be traded last season. There is one concern with his injury history and whether or not he can stay healthy enough to be a suitable pickup, but the reward most likely outweighs the risk.
Another option is Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier. He was the only goalie that the Wings could put in the net that seemed to create a spark. With a .914 SV% this season and a .907 the year before, it’s safe to say that he has done all he can to win games on an inferior Wings team. A goaltender like Bernier doesn’t require many starts over the year and could help keep the team afloat when Juuse Saros needs rest.
The same can be said for James Reimer, who got the backup job with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019-20. In 21 games started this season, he posted a .906 SV%, and the year prior, he had a .914. His numbers have been consistently good for his entire career, and on a team with a primary focus on defense, he could see a jump from his most recent stats.
The three already proven NHL goaltenders were involved in trade rumors at one time or another this past season because their contracts were expiring. If Rinne does indeed retire, a serviceable backup will be necessary for Poile to keep the dream of winning a cup before his career is over alive. Ingram is unproven at the NHL level but has shown to have the raw skill that could catapult him up the rankings if everything goes for him mentally and physically over the offseason. Either way, there are some very legitimate options to consider for the future of goaltending in Nashville before the phenom Askarov arrives.
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic released his top 100 prospects for this upcoming draft. Many names are being thrown around the 18th spot, but this time it was Logan Stankoven being ranked at 18. I want to note that this is not a mock draft, and it could look different if Wheeler made that approach, but as far as ranking prospects go, Stankoven came in at 18. Here is what he had to say about the young buck:
From the top of the faceoff circles in, Stankoven’s a threatening creator who can crack a game open in a split second and who is even more dangerous the closer he gets to the hashmarks. He’s got a lethal release, he’s strong on his feet for his size, which helps him keep a surprising number of plays alive. He can break down defenders in traffic, he’s a sneaky-good facilitator, and he plays with a ton of energy. It’s not hard to imagine him building towards a career as a top-six winger in the NHL.Scott Wheeler, June 22, 2021, “Wheeler: NHL Draft’s top 100 prospects — Michigan players top the 2021 ranking”
There isn’t much more to say other than the Predators could use a top-six talent with the skill set of Stankoven. Anyone that can facilitate offense with a lethal shot, especially someone that knows where to be in the offensive zone, is a commodity to a team like Nashville. Many of the offensive problems stem from not getting to high-danger areas due to systematic issues. It is troublesome that a forward like him could be ruined in John Hynes‘ system like many other forwards in Peter Laviolette’s, but we won’t know until he gets a shot. If he does indeed fall to the Predators, there should be no hesitation from the front office staff to announce his name unless there is somehow a better option available.
Tolvanen, like most of the Predators forwards, had an up and down season. After being a healthy scratch to start the year, he was given his shot on the first day of February against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He started slow but eventually became a key component to the ridiculous 21-7-1 run that the team went on over three months. He was the main reason that the powerplay became lethal and shot up the rankings from the mid-20s to the mid-10s, and his shot and goal-scoring ability brought a new dynamic to a lineup that had been missing it.
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He did disappear towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, but it’s hard to fault him after he sustained an injury that left him out for a fair bit of time. He was, however, playing at a Calder Trophy level and keeping up with Kirill Kaprizov and Jason Robertson–the most likely winners–by both analytics and box score stats.
With his contract ending, there is going to be speculation about what his next deal will be. Evolving-Hockey projected it to be $1.442 million for two years, which seems reasonable considering he hasn’t gotten much playing time in the pros and is still 22-years-old. If I were the front office, I would probably hover around that range as well, most likely giving him $1.3-1.4 million for two years as well. As of right now, his contract is easy to project due to his limited time in the pros. He still has a decent amount of developing to do, but if this year was a sample of what is to come, the Predators fans and team should be extremely excited. All it takes is time.
Jeff is a consistent source for Red Wings content at The Hockey Writers. He was formerly a member of the Predators writing team, and he enjoys watching all sorts of hockey, from juniors to the pros. Jeff enjoys playing for his high school and local teams in Nashville as well. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here or check out his contributions on his Substack, Last Word on Hockey, On the Forecheck, Broad Street Hockey, Hockey Wilderness, and Puck Empire. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck and the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions, you can message his Twitter, @jjmid04.