Speculation From Rinne’s Contract

Pekka Rinne’s new contract is signed, sealed and delivered.  It’s spans seven years and pays the goaltender $7 million each year.  My knee jerk reaction was that it was either too much salary or too much term- based upon market value.  How does it really stack up when compared to the top ten goaltender contracts (via CapGeek.com)?

I examined all the goalies currently making $6+ million a year in real salary and slotted Pekka Rinne’s new contract into that grouping.  I’m focused on real salary for two reasons.  First, the players themselves will be more focused on the real salary for those years they will most likely play- not the throw-away years designed to lower the cap hit.  Secondly, in Nashville it’s historically been the real dollars paid that matters the most as that is what goes into the calculations for revenue sharing.

Goalie

Year Signed

Years (Real Years)

Age at End (Real)

Average Salary (Real)

Luongo, Roberto

2010

12 (8)

43 (39)

5.333 (7.125)

Rinne, Pekka

2012

7 (7)

36 (36)

7 (7)

Lundqvist, Henrik

2008

6 (6)

32 (32)

6.875 (6.875)

Bryzgalov, Ilya

2011

9 (7)

39 (37)

5.667 (6.787)

Kipprusoff, Miikka

2008

6 (5)

37 (36)

5.833 (6.7)

Ward, Cam

2010

6 (6)

32 (32)

6.3 (6.3)

Miller, Ryan

2009

5 (5)

33 (33)

6.25 (6.25)

Backstrom, Niklas

2009

4 (4)

35 (35)

6 (6)

Table 1 – Goalies Making $6+ Million a Year

Ranked by Average Salary (Real), Pekka Rinne’s new contract places him second, behind Roberto Luongo, who will average $7.125 million for the first 8 years of his contract (up to the age of 39).  Out of that list, I personally feel that Rinne is consistently better night-after-night than all with the exception of Lundqvist.  Lundqvist is only paid $125,000 less than Rinne and will be due a new contract that will cover several more of his prime years, so his next contract could conceivably be higher.  So, as it pertains to market salary, Rinne’s new contract is very comparable to other goalies of his caliber (and some less-so in my opinion).

What about term?  From strictly an age standpoint, Rinne’s age at the end of his new contract is both comparable to his counterparts and reasonable.  Many elite goaltenders played at a similar level past the age of 36.  So there again, there is nothing outlandish about the contract from that point of view.

While goalie contracts overall tend to be lower in value relative to other positions, the elite goalies can and do still get paid significantly.  Additionally, Nashville has always been a team that builds from the goalie-out.

The Risks

If all of that is true, why did I have my knee-jerk reaction on twitter?

First and foremost is the fact that Nashville has been utilizing a figure near the cap midpoint as their internal budget for player payroll.  The trading of Matthew Lombardi seemed to indicate that the Predators would continue to be budget-conscious as they did not want to be stuck paying $7 million to a player that might never play again (the fear at that time anyway).

Investing $7 million a year, for seven years, in a player that has either a NMC or NTC (and Rinne has both) will leave the Predators wth little in the way of options if Rinne gets seriously injured, or if his skills decline.  The latter would be the most devastating as insurance won’t cover declining skills like an injury.

The Big Three and Beyond

Rinne’s signing obviously caused a stir on Twitter.  Bob McKenzie addressed the signing with several tweets.

While Bob addresses the money necessary to re-sign Ryan Suter as well as signing Shea Weber to a long-term contract, that money has really always been there.

It was his last tweet on the subject I found most interesting.

Maybe biggest story is NSH ownership obviously willing to be a max cap team next season. Closer to bottom in payroll this yr at about $50M

The Predators are a cap-floor team right now with Weber signed to a $7.5 million contract.  Increasing Suter’s salary from $3.5 to $7 million and Rinne’s from $4 to $7million adds $6.5 million to their current payroll- just at or below this year’s midpoint which has been their traditional budget as of late.

So, while the Predators could potentially re-sign all of the big three, the only room left to sign new players or re-sign players under contract today will be roughly equivalent to the increase to next year’s cap.  When you look at the contracts expiring after this season (Blum, Bouillon, Laakso, Lindback, Geoffrion, Tootoo, Wilson and Kostitsyn), that will not be enough.

There are basically two options here for David Poile and the Nashville Predators: either increase the budget beyond the cap midpoint or trade one of Weber or Suter.

If Poile and Predators ownership are to be believed, they have every intention of re-signing all three of Weber, Suter and Rinne.  They also know full well how much that’s going to cost (at least roughly).

Based on those thoughts, Nashville does appear to be raising their budget for next year.  Is it the jump that McKenzie speculated on twitter?  That’s roughly an $8 million increase to the budget- pretty big step given Nashville’s history.  If so, it would allow Nashville to comfortably re-sign the big three, their other free agents, and likely look to add another player in the $4 million range or so (another Mike Fisher as Poile keeps saying).

If the budget increases only half that though, I don’t think there’s room to add “another Mike Fisher”- at least beyond a rental.  Raising the budget only enough to keep the status quo would also seem to hinder their chances at re-signing Weber, Suter, or both.

When you crunch the numbers and add in the speculation regarding Weber’s “show me” stance, McKenzie’s speculative tweet really seems to be the only conclusion where everything works out.   That said, I’d be shocked if that happened.

 

David Singleton

You are invited to follow me on Twitter (@SingletonPreds).  For game recaps of all Predators games as well as great insights on the Predators and the NHL, check out myHockeyIndependent colleague, Mark Willoughby (@TheViewFrom111).

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About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.

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