Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Conversation with Pekka Rinne and Thursday Thoughts

The Nashville Predators ended their recent ‘goalie controversy” by resigning Pekka Rinne to a two-year, $6.8 million contract that will pay the big netminder $2.8 million in 2010-2011 and $4.0 million in 2011-2012.

Over the last couple of months, neither Rinne or Dan Ellis has been dominant enough to lay claim to the number one goalie slot as both have struggled in net at times. Coach Barry Trotz even tried an every other game rotation for an extended period.

Predator’s General Manager David Poile made his choice clear by signing Rinne before decisions are made prior to next Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline.

Both Rinne and Ellis were slated to become unrestricted free agents on July1. Rinne is making $725,000 this season while Ellis is receiving $2 million. There is little chance that the Predators will re-sign Ellis with the additional salary now committed to Rinne.

It is unclear if the Predators will attempt to deal Dan Ellis at the trade deadline in exchange for another goal scorer for the offensively challenged team.

If Ellis were dealt, the Preds would have to pick up another goalie since no one in their system is ready to make the jump to the NHL.

This season, Rinne is 20-12-4 with three shutouts after last year’s rookie year when he was 29-15-4 with seven shutouts.

Pekka Rinne Speaks on His New Contract and a Wide Variety of Topics...

Pekka was in good spirits after the signing was announced, “It’s a relief. Anytime you are in your last year, it’s always in the back of your mind.”

“I love being here. I like the organization,” Rinne stated. “They have always supported me. I’ve grown up here in the organization, the first three years in Milwaukee and then two years here.”

When asked if he considered testing free agency over the summer, Rinne’s intentions were clear, “From the beginning, my goal was to stay here and not have to wait until the summer.”

With the additional money, will come higher expectations, and more pressure. Pekka is ready for the additional responsibility saying, “That’s a part of it. I want to be a number one (goalie) in this league and do well, so this is the next step.”

Pekka has enjoyed the Olympic break, “I went home (to Finland) and visited my family and went a lot of places where I grew up. I did a lot of stuff I used to do as a kid. It was a lot of fun.’

He further explained, “I played some pond hockey with my friends and took some pictures. It was nice to go back like I was 15 years old again. I skated because I didn’t bring my goalie equipment. It was just like back in the day.”

Pekka has had an eye on the Olympics, “It’s nice to see my teammates playing well and playing in big rolls like Sutter and Weber and same thing with Hornqvist, Marty, Goc and Sulzer.

Pekka was watching when teammate Shea Weber put a shot through the netting on Tuesday, “I was with Joel Ward and we were laughing. We know how heavy his shot is and we think that proves to everyone that he has one of the hardest shots out there.”

Pekka was laughing when asked if Weber’s hard shots kept him from going to another team where he would have to face him. “He’s already one of the top players in the league and he’s only going to get better and the same thing with Suter. Being a goalie with defensemen like that in front of you it’s a big reason (to stay).”

On having six Preds at the Olympics Rinne said, “It’s a great experience for those guys and for a lot of guys it’s a one time experience and it’s something that I can only imagine.”

He is expecting the Olympic experience to be a positive thing for the Predators, “I think it’s going to bring a lot of good things to our team, just to play with the top guys in the league and play against the top guys in the league is a really good thing for all our big guys.”

The Predators returned to practice on Monday, “The atmosphere is really relaxed. Everyone is working hard and trying to get back to game form and get your mind back to playing hockey. You can tell everybody had a good time (off) and relaxed and to get back on the ice.”

The Predators return to the ice next Tuesday in a game against Edmonton in the newly named, Bridgestone Arena. They are currently in seventh place in the tightly bunched Western Conference.

“Our immediate goal is to make the playoffs,” Rinne said. “It’s going to be a really tight race. There are 21 games left and it’s going to be interesting. I can say that we are ready to go.”

On Wednesday, Pekka was getting ready for the Predator’s Cowboy-themed Gala. He described his attire as “a basic cowboy theme, nothing over the top this year, but I’m sure it will be pretty funny.”

Pekka Rinne may look funny in cowboy garb, but the Predator’s opponents will not be laughing when facing Pekka in in the net, wearing his normal goalie attire.

Congratulations to Pekka, his agent Jay Grossman, and the Predator organization for getting a deal done that will keep the big man in goal for the Preds for the next two seasons.

If you would like to hear Pekka speaking, go here to listen to the interview in its entirety.

In Pred Nation...

John Glennon has his Pekka Rinne story and a nice piece about Ryan Suter's extended duty on Wednesday. He also has a report that Jered Smithson and Cody Franson have returned to practice and David Poile's comments on the Rinne signing.

Jim Diamond has a story on the Pekka signing as does David Boclair at the City Paper.

Forechecker takes a look at Pekka's new contract numbers beside other recent goalie signings and has a poll as to the value of the contract for the Preds.

John Glennon discusses the Pred's priority at the trade deadline at Inside Predators.

Eric Kent at Admiral's Short Shifts has an exclusive interview with Wild coach Todd Richards who visited Milwaukee a few days ago.

No pictures yet from the Pred's Gala last night but I'm sure embarrassing photos will be forthcoming today.

Olympic Notes...

The stage is set for Friday's Men's Simi-finals. USA will play Finland at 2 p.m. CST and Canada will play Slovakia at 8:30 p.m. CST. This was set up by Team USA beating a gutty Switzerland team 2-0, Canada blasting Russia 7-3, Finland besting the Czechs 2-0 in a tight game, and Slovakia eliminating the defending champion, Sweden 4-3.

Both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber had big games for their teams with each being a dominant force on defense and Weber scoring a goal for a second straight game. Patric Hornqvist has his first goal in Sweden's loss. The biggest disappointment had to be a delay of game penalty against Marty Erat that led to the goal that gave Finland the victory of his Czech team. You had to feel horrible for Marty.

Somewhat overlooked in all the men's hockey excitement is tonight's Women's hockey Gold Medal game between the USA and Canada. This will be the first competitive game that either team has played in the tournament and it should be a good match. Puck drop is set for 5:30 CST with the pre-game starting at 5:00 on MSNBC.

Bruce Hollingdrake has a great video diary of the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry. Another chapter was written last night with the thrashing Canada gave Ovi and the Russians.

One of the highlight's of last night's Olympic viewing was Mike Milbury's referring to the Russians as "Eurotrash." After intense chatter by a throng on Twitter, Steve Lepore put a post on the topic up at Puck The Media.

Rachel at What The Puck muses over the Olympics and has the ballot to cast your vote in the Commercial Smackdown.

Is $2 Billion in players worth more than a pair of tickets per team? Ted Leonsis thinks not.

Around the NHL...

Ryan at the RLD looks at the Top Five Vezina Trophy candidates.

Odds and Ends...

Here's an interesting quiz from Pew Research to find out how Millennial you are. I ended up halfway between a baby boomer (which I fall in the middle of by date of birth) and a Gen-Xer. I re-took it throwing out watching TV and reading a newspaper in the last 24 hours which I generally don't do and it moved me to halfway between a Gen-Xer and a Millennial.

Who knew? I had no idea that the Southern dude who was Ole Miss' mascot was canned in 2003 and the Rebels have been without a mascot since. It looks like the door has opened for a new one. The old one was one of the more distinctive ones in college sports. I guess the next step will be to quit calling them the Rebels.

From the folks at People of Walmart comes You Drive What? How did I miss this before now?

For those so inclined, you can follow the Dalai Lama on Twitter on his verified account.

Finally, Yahoo and Twitter tie the knot and more Twitter integration is expected into Yahoo in the near future.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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