What’s the best way to make fans of a small market team feel better after you sign a huge, risky contract? Try earning a 35-save shutout.
That’s exactly what Pekka Rinne did on Thursday night. He blanked the Phoenix Coyotes just hours after the hockey world found out that the Nashville Predators inked him to a jaw-dropping 7-year, $49 million deal.
In the long term, it’s still a big gamble of a contract. The term is scary (though not Rick DiPietro-bad) and his annual average salary sets a new ceiling for NHL netminders. Of course, the long-term issue – something relevant to keeper league owners – is that the hefty contract will make it tougher for the Predators to keep their dynamic defensive duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. (The short-term concern is that Rinne will lose the motivation that comes from a contract year, but that’s something that probably means a lot more to me than just about anyone else.)
From the Predators’ perspective, that long-term deal is scary, but for fantasy owners, it should just be a wash. Possibly losing a high-end free agent defenseman (or two) could make him more vulnerable, but staying in the nurturing Nashville atmosphere should allow him to be a franchise guy for quite some time.
THE BULIN WALL REMAINS STURDY
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to discount Nikolai Khabibulin and the Edmonton Oilers. He earned his second shutout of the season to bring his record to 6-0-2 and drop his GAA under 1 (.98) with an outstanding .963 save percentage.
He’s not just doing it alone in every game, either. The Oilers held the Los Angeles Kings to just 19 shots, so maybe Khabibulin will get some solid defensive support every now and then.
Not a whole lot of people outside of Edmonton predicted such a hot streak for the Oil, but if you decided to jump on the bandwagon with “The Bulin Wall,” then ride that as far as you can.
ONDREJ LOOKS GIGANTIC
Ondrej Pavelec has a lot riding on the 2011-12 season. The 24-year-old goalie will be a restricted free agent next summer and he has a long way to go before he convinces the Winnipeg Jets (or any of the other 29 teams) that he’s a franchise guy. Pavelec hasn’t done so consistently yet, but Thursday was an example of his flashes of brilliance: he stopped all 34 of the New York Islanders’ shots.