Why it makes sense for Pekka Rinne to return to the Nashville Predators next season
The day is inevitable. At some point, sooner rather than too much later, Pekka Rinne no longer will wear a Nashville Predators uniform, something he's done in 772 games spanning 15 seasons with the only NHL team to which he's pledged his allegiance.
But I don't think that day will come this summer for the 38-year-old with a Vezina Trophy, a Stanley Cup Final appearance and a goal on his hockey résumé.
Rinne didn't sound like a man ready to retire just after his team's season ended with a six-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs.
"It's the passion," Rinne said soon after the season ended. "To me, that's the most important thing, just the love for the game. I still have that. ... My family, they love to see me play. ... I just need to take my time (with a decision). I'm not stressing."
Rinne didn't play a second this postseason. Didn't play a second last season in the play-in round loss, either. This after starting 89 consecutive postseason games.
Coming back to be Juuse Saros' backup for another season seems logical for Rinne, who holds nearly every franchise record for goalies.
"I've been in those situations where you carry the load at the end of the season," Rinne said. "I was there to support (Saros) and my team and I totally accept my role."
Rest assured, Rinne's rest has been assured most of the last two seasons, which is why it makes perfect sense for him to return for another one. For a proper sendoff for arguably the best and most beloved player in franchise history.
The Predators don't have an NHL-ready goalie in the pipeline. He and Saros are closer than two coats of paint. So don't count on a career that began with a 5-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 15, 2005, to have ended with a 5-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 10, 2021.
General manager David Poile has said he would welcome Rinne back.
Roman Josi said Rinne, like Josi a new father, has "a lot more years left."
That may be an exaggeration, but the point remains. Rinne, who has played the fewest minutes of his career the last two seasons, still has some quality minutes left in him.
He also likely would be affordable, much cheaper than the $5 million cap hit of the last two seasons, and the $7 million the seven seasons before that.
It's almost impossible to imagine Rinne, an unrestricted free agent, spending the sunset of his career with another team.
Nashville, after all, is a "special city" to Rinne, his "home now."
And, in all likelihood, his home for at least another year with the Predators.
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