The Nashville Predators got bad news Thursday, as star goalie Pekka Rinne will miss the next three-to-five weeks with a knee injury. And Preds GM David Poile needs to use some of his cap space to hold the fort in net until Rinne returns.
Star goalie and Hart Trophy frontrunner Pekka Rinne was confirmed Thursday afternoon to be sidelined three-to-five weeks with a knee injury suffered in Tuesday’s game against Vancouver, and that’s about as calamitous as news can get for the Nashville Predators. Backup netminder Carter Hutton, winless (0-3-2) in six appearances, hasn’t put up numbers anywhere close to Rinne’s – although few have – and if the Preds intend on not squandering their astonishing run this season, GM David Poile is going to have to beat the bushes on the trade market for a short-term solution. And money can’t be an object.
With a payroll of approximately $60 million, Poile has the cap space to make the move. This team isn’t profitable enough yet to be a cap ceiling organization, but this represents a test of sorts for team ownership: spending a few more dollars to acquire a stop-gap measure in net might hurt their financial bottom line for this year, but the buzz a winning team produces would be worth it for the long-term interest it builds in the team in and around Nashville. This is the most exciting Predators squad many have ever watched, and no offense to Hutton, but if you’re a Preds fan, you should want more insurance alongside him to prevent the start of a freefall that can’t necessarily be pulled out of once Rinne comes back.
As THN’s Jared Clinton noted on Twitter, that three-to-five-week window on Rinne’s return is crucial: if he’s playing again in three weeks, he misses “only” seven games; if it takes him five weeks, he could miss double that amount. In a highly competitive conference, the points you lose in that span could mean the difference between home ice (where the Preds are an amazing 17-2-1) and the road (where they’re a much more ordinary 12-7-3) in the playoffs. Oh, and have I mentioned five of their next seven games are on the road? Yeah. So.
Poile has never been afraid of making moves as the league-imposed trade deadline approached. In this case, however, he doesn’t have as much time to consummate a deal. The need is acute and immediate. If he trusts his team can survive without their most valuable player, full marks to him for the faith in his roster. But he’s managed the cap well enough to be able to help himself in a time of need, and it would be a shame if Poile wouldn’t or couldn’t fork over a few dollars more to keep his beloved franchise looking as dominant as it has.