Although the Predators will be putting a greater emphasis on their offense next season, that won’t diminish the importance of good goaltending in Nashville. Even with the addition of James Neal and even if their summer gambles of Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro pay off, the Predators will still go only as far as Pekka Rinne will take them.
The fact that his 2013-14 campaign was derailed due to a hip injury played a key role in the Predators missing the playoffs. Without him, the team’s save percentage was just .902 last season, which put them in 26th place in the league.
It is worth noting though that Rinne wasn’t exactly good even when he was able to play last season, posting a 2.77 GAA and .902 save percentage in 24 games, but that was mostly due to his struggles upon returning from surgery. He started the season with a solid 2.31 GAA and .917 save percentage in nine contests before being sidelined.
After the 2013-14 campaign, Rinne sought to continue to shake off the rust by playing in the 2014 World Championships and while international numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, it is worth noting that he was the tournament’s MVP with a 1.78 GAA and .932 save percentage. Combine that strong finish with a full summer to get back on track and the stage certainly seems to be set for a comeback season.
At the same time, the margin for error isn’t particularly big. After all, he’ll turn 32 in November and still has five seasons left on his seven-year, $49 million contract. The length of that deal was always concerning, but if his health problems persist or he simply can’t perform at the level he was at in 2010-11 and 2011-12 anymore, then that contract will be potentially crippling for the small market Predators.
So it’s fair to say that a lot is riding on Rinne this season.