Nov. 3, 2011 could go down as one of the best days ever for Pekka Rinne.
Not only did the Nashville Predators netminder celebrate his 29th birthday with an impressive 3-0 shutout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, he also signed a brand new, seven-year, $49 million contract earlier in the day.
Head coach Barry Trotz summed up Rinne’s day best.
“He had a goalie hat trick,” Trotz said. “Birthday boy, obviously, shutout and $49 million—I’d call that a goalie hat trick.”
Indeed. A shutout would be a great gift for any goalie celebrating a birthday, but picking up $49 million in the process—which, oh by the way, now makes him the highest-paid goaltender in the league—is a life-changing event.
It was all too fitting that Rinne proved his worth in the game that night. He stopped all 35 shots that Phoenix threw at him, earning him his third shutout of the season, tying him with Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick for the league lead.
Rinne’s huge contract is also the largest contract in the history of a franchise that came into the league for the 1998-99 season. And while some may thing $7 million a season is too much for a goaltender, Rinne’s numbers say otherwise. Along with leading the league in shutouts, the former eighth-round pick (that’s right, eighth round, and the 258th pick overall!) is the current leader in saves (307 entering last night’s game). He leads the NHL with the most shutouts since 2008-09 was second in voting for the Vezina Trophy and fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy last season.
If any goaltender in the NHL deserves to be paid like a rockstar, it’s Rinne.
However, with that being said, the Preds now face the daunting task of trying to sign both Sea Weber and Ryan Suter, arguably the best defensive tandem in the league. Weber, who went to arbitration this past summer and was awarded $7.5 million, will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Suter will be an unrestricted free agent. While many are speculating that both will eventually test the free-agent waters, Predators team chairman Tom Ciggaran believes that deals can still be reached with both players.
“We have every intent of signing both Shea and Ryan, and we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen…These guys are sort of home-grown,” Ciggaran said. “They’re just people that we want to have around to be the core of a Stanley Cup-winning team for years to come.”