After such big goalie contracts as the insane Rick DiPietro deal and the more recent and rather large Ilya Bryzgalov signing, critics are wary to praise signing a goalie for a long-term deal, regardless of their skill level.
The fact of the matter is that even though his team may fly under the radar and not be in a big-time hockey market like Toronto or Detroit, Pekka Rinne has still proven himself to be an elite goaltender in the NHL.
I believe that Rinne is worth every dollar that he is going to earn in this new contract, and I can prove why.
Let's break it down.
Rinne is more than Nashville's starting goalie. He is at times their best and most well-known player as well.
Rinne is part of a core of three star players on the Predators, including Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, that were all scheduled to become free agents next July.
Rinne, along with the Nashville organization, realized that the team would absolutely collapse without its star goaltender. Regardless of where the two defensemen end up next year, Rinne is the heart of this club, as is customary on a relatively unknown team that has a stellar guy in the net.
It's not very often that a team almost entirely relies on its goalie and still wins playoff series, but such is the case in Nashville. It could not let its top guy head somewhere else as a free agent.
Did you know that Rinne was a runner-up for the Vezina Trophy as best goaltender last year? Yeah, you probably did.
But! Did you know that Rinne was fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy for regular season MVP last year? Probably not.
Rinne was second in the league last season with a .930 save percentage and third with a 2.12 goals against average. Granted, he had Suter and Weber in front of him for plenty of minutes, but not many other players on the Predators are on the same level as those two.
What makes him an MVP candidate and separates him from the rest is how much he did for his team; more than almost any other goalie in the league.
He took a team with a ton of no-name players and turned them into a playoff team that gave them a fighting chance throughout the postseason.
That's a pretty serious criterion for MVP votes.
Even though he is now making more money than many of the top goaltenders in the league, Rinne is also younger than them.
On Nov. 3, Rinne turned 29 years old, putting him younger than Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundvist, Jonas Hiller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Miller and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Rinne has seven years on his contract, and he could definitely be a star goaltender for that entire period. Nashville could then build a solid team around him and become very dangerous in the Western Conference.
It's not every day that a team has the chance to sign a goalie with this much skill at such a young age and keep him locked down for almost a decade.
If you're not freaking out right now, you need to reread the headline of this slide.
Rinne was taken by Nashville 258th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, in the eighth round (EIGHTH ROUND). That is serious proof that Rinne has worked his ass off to get to a point in his career where he can sign a $49 million deal.
Not many goalies taken in the late rounds end up playing in the NHL—let alone starting games for a team—or sign huge, multiple-year contracts.
Rinne has earned this deal and proven that he has what it takes to be elite in this league and has made every one of the teams that passed on him for seven-plus rounds in the draft kick themselves ever since.
By choosing to extend now in November and not even come close to free agency, Rinne is proving to the Predators organization, the city, the fans and (most importantly) Weber and Suter that he is settling here and intends on doing all he can to make Nashville a better team in the future.
In his contract press conference, Rinne said he wanted to get a deal done "sooner rather than later," and plans on sticking with Nashville.
This is an extremely important part of this deal considering Nashville's core consists of a goalie and two defensemen, which is not exactly the ideal situation. However, Rinne is showing that he will remain the fulcrum of this team for the better part of a decade and is silently hinting to the star blueliners to do the same.
If they follow in their goalie's lead, then Nashville could have a very solid core of players in their prime whom they can build around and become even better.
While one may argue that Tomas Vokoun's barely-above .500 tenure in Nashville was thanks in large part to a lackluster roster, Rinne doesn't have much more to work with.
Rinne has (so far) won 12 percent more of his games than Vokoun did while playing for Nashville and even led the Preds to their first playoff-round victory in team history last season.
Vokoun might have been the man while he was the starter in Nashville, but now it's Rinne's turn to shine and he is shining much brighter than Vokoun ever did. And no, I'm not talking about his bright yellow jersey...
It's safe to assume that Rinne still has much more left in the tank considering he has yet to play 70 or more games in a season in his career.
His highest total was 64 last season, and he still was nominated for the Vezina Trophy.
It's a scary thought, but what kind of numbers could he put up if he's playing 75 games a season?
Rinne appears to be on form so far this year, having played in all 13 of Nashville's games. He obviously won't suit up every night this season, but I'm very excited to see what he can do with 60 to 65 more games to work with.