February 24, 2010 :: 5:37pm ET
In Pekka we trust
By David Pagnotta, TheFourthPeriod.com

[TORONTO, ON] -- While the bulk of the hockey world planted itself in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, a scheduling conflict prevented me from attending.

Having been on the road -- Montreal, New York, Washington, St. Petersburg (Russia), Minsk, Moscow and Los Angeles -- and away from home for 25 days between Jan. 20 and Feb. 18, adding another 10 days would have completely worn me out -- though I'm sure the memories everyone will have of attending the Vancouver Olympics are well worth the trek.

Instead, I opted to regroup at TFP HQ (business before pleasure). With 12 piles of paperwork collecting dust on my desk, I immediately regretted my decision, I jumped back into the swing of things. From magazine scheduling to playoff travel forecasting, I've been pretty swamped.

But, with the trade deadline quickly approaching, avoiding the Vancouver scene has left me just as busy as I alwys am around this time of year. Hey, there's always room for JELLO juicy trade talk, right?

The Nashville Predators are among the teams interested in bolstering their lineup. While GM David Poile is primarily focused on his duties with Team USA right now, his staff is working the phones and creating options.

It has been widely speculated that the Predators are interested in Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Predators could definitely benefit from a player of his caliber; they need to add some scoring punch before the post-season rolls around.

However, as much as the team and its fans may want to add to the roster, keeping the key components of the everyday lineup in tact is also a priority.

Goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis, and defenseman Dan Hamhuis, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1. Of the three, Rinne may be the team's primary focal point...

...And that's what I had written this morning, prior to the Predators and Rinne agreeing to a two-year, $6.8 million extension.

I was going to keep on going about how important Rinne is to the Predators and how he's been one of main reasons the team is still in the playoff hunt -- currently sitting in 7th in the West.

Then, in the middle of my work, minding my own business, I received a text message: "(Rinne) just got new deal... 2yrs."

Thanks, a lot, David Poile (Predators GM), Paul Fenton (Predators asst. GM), Michael Santos (Preds Dir. of Hockey Ops) and Jay Grossman (Rinne's agent)!!

In all seriousness, this was a move the Predators needed to make, and I'm not surprised it took a fairly short period of time to complete.

The 27-year-old native of Kempele, Finland, has evolved into a top NHL goaltender. His large, 6-foot-5, frame is a definite asset, but his talent speaks for itself (which is why he was awarded a nice extension).

I first met Rinne at last year's All-Star Game festivities in Montreal, where he was the starting goalie for the rookie team during the YoungStars game. He a very team-oriented player and one who connects extremely well with the teammates.

The Predators have confidence in their goalie, which often leads to positive outcomes. With Shea Weber and Ryan Suter leading the charge in the backend, Rinne knows he has the flexibility to be a little more dangerous in his crease, and the defensive corps understands it can be a little more dangerous in its own zone.

Nashville has built a strong nucleus and a key component to this signing was an understanding from Ellis that a deal was on the horizon. Evidently, Ellis had no issues with the move, proclaiming on Twitter earlier today, "Congrats to my boy peks."

What the future holds for Ellis remains to be seen. The two are friends and get along well, but will the tandem stick together after it's become clear the Rinne will handle the bulk of the duties?

For now, the focus shifts to the trade deadline and Hamhuis, who continues to be in talks with the Predators about his own extension.

The Predators are battling for playoff hockey and management's new priority is doing what it takes to make sure that happens.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC.

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  Dec. 23, 2009 It's not only about the money for Kovalchuk
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