It has been more than 20 months since Pekka Rinne signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with the Nashville Predators, and more than a year since that deal took effect.
At that moment (Nov. 3, 2011) the timing seemed prudent. After all, the franchise locked him up when he was eight months away from unrestricted free agency.
It is clear now, though, that it also was costly.
The lockout that delayed the start of last season and shortened the schedule to 48 games also shrunk the amount of money teams have for salaries. As a result, Rinne – with an average salary of $7 million – remains at the top of the goalie pay scale.
Monday, Chicago signed its Stanley Cup winning goalie Corey Crawford to a six-year, $36 million deal ($6 million per season) that begins with the 2014-15 season and puts him among the NHL’s highest-paid at the position. Comparable deals include those to Detroit’s Jimmy Howard (six years, $31.75 million), Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick (10 years, $58 million), Phoenix’s Mike Smith (six years, $34 million), Montreal’s Carey Price (six years, $39 million) – and all of them came after Rinne theoretically set, but in reality capped the market.
Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Crawford’s counterpart in last season’s Cup final, finally matched Rinne in terms of average salary with an eight-year, $56 million pact in July. On the other side, the Philadelphia Flyers seized the opportunity provided by this summer’s compliance buyout to get away from the nine-year, $51 million deal they gave Ilya Bryzgalov prior to the 2011-12 season.
According to capgeek.com, six of this season’s 10 highest paid goalies either are in the first or second season of their current deals. Henrik Lundqvist has one season remaining on a six-year pact with a cap hit of $6.875 million, and it will be particularly telling if the notoriously free-spending Rangers don’t go beyond $7 million per year to keep him.
The Predators open training camp next week, and they need Rinne to be one of the best, if not the best goalie in the league. It makes sense, therefore that they’re already paying him as such – and figure to continue to do so for some time.