February 24, 2010 :: 5:37pm ET
In Pekka we trust
By David Pagnotta,
[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
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
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
...And that's what I had written this
morning, prior to the Predators and Rinne agreeing to a two-year, $6.8
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
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
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
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.
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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