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Rinne signs extension with Preds…

He should’ve been Finland’s third goaltender in Vancouver. Instead, he’s getting a contract extension.

The Nashville Predators and Pekka Rinne have come to terms on a contract extension that locks up the netminder for two more years. The deal is for $2.8 million next season and then $4 million in 2011-12, obviously weighted so, when Nashville sheds themselves of Jason Arnott ($4.5 million/year) and Steve Sullivan‘s ($3.75 million/year) contracts, they can pay Rinne the bulk of his raise.

Coincidentally, it’s a good deal for Rinne as well. He gets a well deserved bump in salary after his spectacular performance last season and, he doesn’t have to commit long term to Nashville, only having signed for two years.

Both Rinne and Dan Ellis were set to become free agents on July 1, forcing fans in Nashville to wonder which goalie the organization would keep and which one they’d let go. Or, worse case scenario, even leaving open the possibility that neither would don a Predators sweater next season.

Thankfully, fans no longer have to wonder.

Rinne, 27, was snubbed by his home country of Finland when he was left off the 2010 Olympic roster in favor of Tampa Bay Lightning veteran Antero Niittymaki. Rinne told the Nashville media that we was going to use this as motivation for the rest of the season. Since the snub, Rinne has gone 5-5-2 with one shutout and an .896 save percentage. Not exactly stellar numbers but, as the coaching staff would agree, the defense in front of him was abysmal during most of those games.

Now that he carries the torch for the Preds, he needs to reproduce his stretch run from last season. Rinne was 7-2-3 in the month of March last year with one shutout and a stout .911 save percentage. Also, two of those three overtime losses had very little offensive support. Nashville only scored 1 and 2 goals, respectively.

This isn’t just about securing their goaltender of the future though. There’s a little  more to it.

Nashville's Dan Ellis provides goaltending depth for the Predators but might shine elsewhere.

The secondary question is what becomes of Ellis? Is this the first step in a trade for the 29-year old, like it was a few weeks ago when the Anaheim Ducks inked Jonas Hiller to an extension and then, a day later, parted ways with Jean-Sebastien Giguere? Or are the Preds willing to let Ellis become a free agent without getting anything in return, basically accepting the fact that they need two fully-capeable goaltenders down the stretch and/or for the post season?

Whatever the case, you have to hand it Predators General Manager David Poile. The guy is in Vancouver, serving as Assistant General Manager for Team USA and yet he’s still working feverishly just before the NHL’s trade deadline on things other than potential trades. Not to mention the fact that, by signing Rinne now, it’s one less thing he has to worry about this summer when free agency approaches as fast an oncoming train.

Goaltenders in the Predators system include 2006 5th round pick Mark Dekanich (currently playing for the Milwaukee Admirals), 2008 1st round pick Chet Pickard (Milwaukee Admirals) and 2007 2nd round pick Jeremy Smith (Cincinnati Cyclones). Consensus is that none of the three guys are ready for the NHL just yet, even as a back-up, making the scenario of keeping Ellis for the stretch run much more likely.

So, is $6.5 million over the next two seasons too much? Too little? Is a two-year deal too much? Too little? Does this signing spell the end of the Music City USA road for Ellis?

Only time will answer all of those questions.