Pekka Rinne is an all-time great goalie. He is just the 18th goalie in history to amass 300 wins and 50 shutouts in a career. He has been a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist and is poised to finally win it this season. Beyond his play, Rinne is an all-time great human being. He is always supportive of his teammates and always credits his success to both the team and the fans. He also co-founded the Predators 365 Fund for Pediatric Cancer along with former teammate Shea Weber. He has simply been the greatest Predator to ever wear the jersey. It is hard to imagine, but the Predators should seriously consider trading Rinne this offseason.
Juuse Saros Is the Real Deal
The only fathomable reason to even consider dealing Rinne is due to the success of Juuse Saros. Saros, like Rinne before him, has turned out to be an absolute steal. The 22-year-old Finnish native was drafted by the Predators in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft. In his two seasons as the Predators NHL backup, Saros has posted a 5-on-5 save percentage of 92.86 compared to Rinne’s 93.31. Even though Rinne has a slight advantage there, Saros has largely faced more difficult situations. Saros, like most NHL backup goalies, plays the majority of his games in the second game of a back-to-back. Usually, players are tired from playing the night before and traveling. Saros is forced to play with less help in front of the goal.
When Saros is in net, the Predators allow four more shots against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, according to Corsica.hockey. They also allow six more unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 than when Rinne is in net. Another example of the Predators allowing more in front is high danger shots against. To compare the two, 19 percent of all shots Saros faces at 5-on-5 are from high danger areas while just under 16 percent are for Rinne. Even with the obvious disadvantages, Saros has almost matched Rinne in any statistical category. Saros is the future, but can be the “now.” Just look at this sequence of saves from the other night against the red-hot San Jose Sharks.
Rinne’s Value at an All-Time High
Pekka Rinne has proven to the entire NHL he still has plenty left in the tank. After an incredible run through the playoffs last season, Rinne has been the best goalie all year long. He has sustained his success for far too long to be considered a fluke. Rinne leads all full-time starters in almost every statistical category. Most consider the goaltender position as the quarterback of the NHL. It is the single most important position in the game. A goalie can single-handedly prevent a loss for his team. After winning a Vezina Trophy and potentially a Stanley Cup, Rinne should be worth a lot on the market.
Rinne Could Net Predators High Return
With that being said, a team needing an upgrade at the position might pay a hefty price for Rinne. What type of return could Rinne bring to the Predators? The NHL has seen a slew of notable trades involving goalies over the past few seasons. Most recently, the Detroit Red Wings sent Petr Mrazek to the Philidelphia Flyers for some draft picks. The Red Wings get the Flyers’ 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 conditional pick that could be worth up to a second-rounder.
Dating back to last season’s trade deadline, current Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop has been traded twice for multiple draft picks. The summer of 2016 saw two big trades involving Frederik Andersen and Brian Elliott. Both goalies brought major returns. Elliot brought the St. Louis Blues the No. 35 overall pick that year and a conditional 2018 third-rounder. Andersen returned even more for the Anaheim Ducks. The Toronto Maple Leafs sent their 2016 first-round pick and a second-rounder in 2017.
All of those goalies were proven goaltenders at the time of their trade. None of them were Vezina Trophy winners. None of them had the stats Rinne has posted this season. For a desperate team with a small Stanley Cup window, Rinne could easily bring back multiple draft picks and/or prospects to the Predators.
With the parameters I have set between who would need Rinne and how much he is worth, here are the teams that could be buyers for the best Finnish netminder to ever play.
New York Islanders:
The Islanders are an obvious choice. If they manage to resign John Tavares, they could easily be Cup contenders with Rinne manning the crease. The Islanders have a minus-35 goal differential this season despite scoring the eighth-most goals in the league. Jaroslav Halak has flopped after having some marginal success with the team in recent years. They have the need, and they have the capital to afford Rinne. The Islanders hold two lottery picks and two second-rounders in the upcoming draft. The Predators should ask for at least one pick from each round.
The Oilers are one of the most frustrating teams in the league. They have the world’s best player who has now posted back-to-back 100-point seasons. Yet, they are sitting in a lottery position in the upcoming draft. The Oilers also hold three third-round picks in the 2019 draft. They also have a general manager who does not make very good decisions. There is no reason to think he won’t pay big bucks to solidify their back end and let Connor McDavid carry the team once more.
The Hurricanes are the best option for the Predators if they are hoping to receive some top prospects rather than draft capital. According to our very own Brett Slawson, the Hurricanes have the third best farm system in the league. They also have a need at goalie after Scott Darling and Cam Ward have been toward the bottom of the league in save percentage. The Hurricanes are on the precipice of a very open championship window. They have tons of cap space, tons of prospects, and pretty solid talent already at the NHL level.
According to Slawson, the Hurricanes have a couple of goalie prospects they are very high on, but still need a little more time to develop. Rinne can stop that gap for them. The Predators could ask for a top defensive prospect since that is where Carolina is deepest. We all know how much the Predators love defensemen.
The Trade That Will Never Happen
The Predators have hit a homer un with Saros. He is far-and-away the best backup goalie in the league. With Saros’s future almost guaranteed, the Predators could part ways with Rinne to capitalize on his elevated value due to this season’s play. If the Predators could return a high first-round draft pick to go along with some other middle-round picks or even a top prospect, it would be well worth it.
However, the Predators are never going to part ways with their first, homegrown elite goalie. He holds every positive goaltender record in franchise history and is one of the greatest goalies to play the game. He is the current face of the franchise and an incredible member of the Nashville community. Just listen to the fans cheer for him every night. However long he continues to play, Rinne is always going to be a Predator.