When looking up at the ceiling of Bridgestone Arena, the only thing that hangs from the rafters is the NHL team banners and the iconic Predator head that lowers when the team takes the ice. The Nashville Predators have not yet retired a player’s jersey — and that is understandable. Entering their 17th year in the League, it is a bit premature to retire a player’s number. But, the time is coming.
The question now becomes, who will be the first?
There are only a select few players (former and current) who would be considered worthy of having their number retired. While it is nice to ponder about who it will be, there is one thing to keep in mind. Nashville should not retire a number just to retire a number. There is a reason Wayne Gretzky’s number is retired in Edmonton, Mark Messier’s in Madison Square Garden, Patrick Roy’s in Montreal and Mario Lemieux’s in Pittsburgh. They were all legendary players for their respective teams.
The qualifications usually include playing most — if not — all their career in that city and being outstanding in their role. Nashville has a few who fill those requirements, but for different reasons. Here are the candidates.
David Legwand was the team’s first foundation piece after being selected second overall in the team’s inaugural entry draft in 1998. Legwand entered the League for a game at 18 and played in Nashville for 15 season prior to being traded to Detroit on March 5. In 956 career games, Legwand accounted for 210 goals and 356 assists. He leads the team in all-time games played and scoring with no one in sight to test the franchise records.
No, Legwand did not live up to expectations in the score sheet and was often times soft on the puck, leaving Predators fans begging for a trade to get this guy out of town. However, Legwand would always seem to shine when it came to scoring empty net goals to seal victories.
Legwand, 33, was signed to a two-year, $6 million contract by the Ottawa Senators on July 5. As a 50-point scorer last season, Legwand has plenty of years left in the NHL. There is a chance, although slim, that he could return to the Music City to close his career fittingly. And I’m sure that’s what all fans would hope for.
The best defenseman in the League, arguably, has a ways to go before anyone thinks about retiring his number. Shea Weber, 29, is on contract until the conclusion of the 2025-26 season. Barring something drastic, Weber will be a Predator for his entire career. There has not been a better player to don the Predators’ uniform — and may not ever be. The captain has helped lead the franchise to their first playoff series victory, and did so in consecutive years.
In 607 career games, Weber has totaled 131 goals, 216 assists and a +40 rating. Weber currently holds the record of all-time scoring by a defenseman with 347 points, previously held by Kimmo Timonen (301). The only accolades he needs to call his career a success is a Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy.
When Nashville drafted Pekka Rinne in the 8th round in 2004, there was no one who could have predicted what he was going to develop into the next several years. Rinne, along with Weber, is signed long-term. His contract expires at the end of the 2018-19 season. Since entering the League full-time during the 2008-9 season, Rinne has been nothing short of spectacular between the pipes for the Predators. However, a couple hip injuries set him back last season and was only able to play in 24 games. Although Rinne looked good toward the end of the season, there still remains questions about how much his hip will set him back.
Rinne, 32, holds all-time wins record (163), shutouts (32), and is eyeing most starts ever in the franchise. In 317 games, Rinne has a 163-98-37 record, 2.39 goals against average, and .918 save percentage. When Rinne eventually decides to retire, he could go down as the best goaltender to ever play in Nashville.
Who will be the first retired number in the rafters? My guess is Pekka Rinne.