The Nashville Predators saw the 2013 season end in disappointment, as injuries combined with a lack of offense to create problems all year. Goaltender Pekka Rinne was called upon in 43 of 48 games, and finished with a losing record for the first time in his career. While he posted a respectable 2.43 goals-against average and recorded five shutouts, there wasn’t much else about Rinne’s season that would be considered successful. He had hip surgery after the season ended, and while he is expected to be ready in four months, there are no guarantees. This makes finding a backup goaltender incredibly important for the Predators this offseason, and they have few options in their system.
This year’s backup, Chris Mason, is a free agent and there is absolutely no reason to bring him back. Mason was 1-7-1 this season and allowed almost four goals per game. His time with the Predators has likely come to an end, but there aren’t many options to take his place. The Predators got a good effort from Magnus Hellberg in his first season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL, but the thought of throwing him into action at the highest level for the first time is troubling. Jeremy Smith, a second round pick in 2007, struggled to his worst season with Admirals and also battled injuries. Like Hellberg, he has never seen action with the Predators.
For the past few seasons, the Predators have rode the solid play of Rinne to much success. This season when he struggled a little bit they had few answers to support him on the other end of the ice, and they missed the playoffs because of it. Having a better backup option might allow Rinne to have a few more nights off a be in better form when he does play.