Predators’ prospect Mazanec has chance to step into back-up role

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Pekka Rinne remains the No. 1 goalie in Nashville at the age of 33.

Coming off a season in which he struggled at times, with a .908 save percentage, he still has three more years remaining on a seven-year contract that has an annual cap hit of $7 million.

But the departure of Carter Hutton, who signed in St. Louis as an unrestricted free agent, has left a back-up spot open and, as per The Tennessean, there could be a battle between Marek Mazanec — who had 25 games experience in Nashville during the 2013-14 season — and 21-year-old Juuse Saros for the position.

“I’d say Mazanec certainly deserves the first look,” Predators general manager David Poile told The Tennessean.

“He’s spent four years in the organization, he’s been up here when Pekka (Rinne) went down a couple years ago, (played) 25 games and really played well. He’s had some inconsistencies in his game down in Milwaukee, but in terms of can he do it, should he be able to be that second guy? Absolutely.”

As for Saros, Nashville’s fourth-round pick in 2013, he emerged onto the scene in the American Hockey League last season, with a 29-8-0 record and a .920 save percentage.

The Predators also added to their depth at the goalie position by signing Jonas Gunnarsson out of Sweden at the beginning of June, which led to Hutton questioning at the time if his days in Nashville was done.