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Pekka Rinne signed a big contract on Thursday, both in terms of the length and financial heft of the commitment.
Seven years and $7 million per is a lot for any goalie, and as such the deal was summarily laughed out of the building. It's pretty tough to sit here and think of any long-term deal at all that didn't get embarrassing by the end, let alone one for a goaltender. And certainly not a for a player who will be on the wrong side of 30.
It's not a good contract any way you slice it, and the underlying numbers for Rinne (particularly his impossible-to-repeat shorthanded save percentage) indicate that the all-world numbers he put up last season aren't likely to be replicated. It may be especially disastrous a few years down the line given Nashville's penchant for churning out good-to-great NHL goalies at an alarming rate.
But the larger point of the contract was, I think, more interesting.
(Coming Up: Marty Brodeur reaches his sunset and your pearls of BizNasty.)
Indeed, most wrote it off as Poile basically running up a white flag and admitting that the team didn't have the juice, financially or otherwise, to sign all three of Rinne, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. You can argue about the relative value of one defenseman without the other. It's been years since anyone's seen them separated for any considerable length of time (Weber's most recent regular non-Suter partner was Greg Zanon, Suter's was Marek Zidlicky; that was in 2007).
So for a team like Nashville, which isn't exactly rubbing up against the salary cap, to commit that much for that long to Rinne seemed to open the bidding on either Weber or Suter, whether via trade or once July 1 came around. But then something funny happened.
Bob McKenzie tweeted, "Maybe biggest story is [Nashville] ownership obviously willing to be a max cap team next season. Closer to bottom in payroll this [year] at about [$50 million]."
The inference from McKenzie's tweet, and earlier ones regarding Nashville's Big Three, is that Suter and Weber and Rinne will, if they all opt to re-sign, eat up roughly $20-23 million of the team's cap room per year.
You'll notice that's nearly half of the total the Predators currently pay against the cap. Now granted, they will have about $40 million in space to work with this summer, but much of that will have to go toward re-upping nearly all of the 'D' corps and a number of promising younger forwards, as well as Anders Lindback, who might want to start looking for work elsewhere.
And if they are willing to spend all the way to the cap, the change is paradigm-shifting, and will have a major impact on the Western Conference. No longer will teams be able to poach Nashville's best players, and for a team that has picked up a large amount of success despite having some of the lowest salary totals in the league every season, what happens next will be interesting.
The standings points-per-dollar ratio the Preds pay must make the Capitals, Canucks and Flyers of the world extremely jealous. But if they're now going to go out and, if not compete with the big markets, at least make a respectable showing of signing to needs (i.e. scoring), it will certainly be interesting to see if they can make use of the type of shrewd pickups the have in the past.
The unrestricted free agent market is a wholly inefficient one, by and large, and it would probably be tough for the Predators to find ultra-effective players who fit within their system at the kind of price points they've been used to. But it will also be fun to watch them try.
For their part, Suter and Weber did little to tip their hands when discussing Rinne's deal. It was all "happy for him" this and "focused on winning" that. But two things that also came up from both, as well as GM David Poile, were the team's now-obvious commitment to retaining its best players and that the move was a "step in the right direction."
That perception, perhaps more than Poile's historical ability to buy wins on the cheap, is what's going to shape Nashville in the future if the team is going to spend to the cap. Guys seem to value that, league-wide.
Can you imagine what the Predators might be able to do if they can lure a decent forward or two with the promise of an actual, competitive NHL salary and the chance to win a Stanley Cup playing in front of three of the better defensive players on the planet?
We can all agree that the Rinne contract was a bad one, but what it means for the Predators going forward (and perhaps upwards) could be very good indeed.
Martin Brodeur returned from yet another injury on Wednesday night and looked downright ghastly against the Maple Leafs, coughing up five goals (and making one spectacular save) on just 23 shots.
The goals were so uncharacteristically poor that many began to question whether Brodeur was now officially past it. After all, he's now given up nine goals on 54 shots (an .857 save percentage). This led to admonishments from certain parties that it's unfair to criticize him based on his two most recent performances. And that's true enough.
But what that ignores is that Martin Brodeur is 39 years old and has missed 70 games over the last four season due to injuries to a number of different body parts. So yeah, Brodeur has likely reached the point at which he is no longer a useful NHL goaltender. His career will likely (see also: hopefully) end this season, but it's not because of this injury, it's because of the passage of time. Not everyone is Teemu Selanne, who had the ability to continue producing even as he trundled past his 40th birthday.
The reason we're even talking about this is that Lou Lamoriello has a somewhat understandable blindspot where Brodeur is concerned and didn't bother to put any kind of contingency plan into place in case either he or 38-year-old Johan Hedberg became unable to produce results consistent with New Jersey's relative quality.
Brodeur's probably the best goaltender of all time and if he's not, he's inarguably in the top three. This not-so-sudden decline was a slow train coming, and should neither draw derisive comments nor prompt anyone to laugh up their sleeves. It was inevitable and frankly, it's shocking it took this long.
But those who criticize him are right: It will be to the Devils' detriment if he continues to play this season.
And that's Lamoriello's fault.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on celebrities: "If you added up all the ice time I get this season it would be longer than Kim Kardashian's marriage. ..... If you include warm-ups."
If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.
- Martin Brodeur
- Ryan Suter
- Pekka Rinne