For the first time in three seasons, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was not a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact Rinne was playing with a hip injury.
Thursday, general manager David Poile announced Rinne had hip surgery on Wednesday and the procedure will sideline the goalie for four months.
"This is a situation we were aware of last year," Poile said at a press conference. "This goes to the position he's playing, the wear and tear on the goaltenders and what the current style of play [the butterfly technique] is. This is an operation that many, many players in the NHL have had."
The procedure, a hip arthroscopy, was performed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Poile said he expected Rinne, a native of Finland, to spend his summer in Nashville rehabilitating.
Poile said Rinne is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in September, and he referred to the fact other goalies had the same surgery and rebounded to play at a high level. Poile cited two examples: Tim Thomas, who had the surgery in the summer of 2010 and returned to win the Vezina Trophy and backstop the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011, and Nicklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild, Rinne's friend and former teammate from Finland who tied for the League lead in wins this season with 24.
Poile said Rinne underwent an MRI exam at the end of the season, after which the issue was discussed. The goaltender traveled to New York to get a second opinion and consulted players who have had the procedure.
"[The doctors] talked about the timing, whether this was the time to do it or whether it would be next year," Poile said. "Everybody felt with all the research that this would be the best thing for Pekka and his longevity of career and his future lifestyle. It is a four-month recovery, which brings us, again, right to training camp. It's certainly our hope that he will be ready to go for training camp."
Poile went on to say Rinne could have played if the Predators made the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- this was the first time since he became Nashville's No. 1 goaltender they missed the postseason -- and it was possible the goalie could have continued playing into next season.
"His thoughts were, and after talking to all the doctors, was that it was probably best to take care of it now," Poile said.
Poile said the procedure was somewhat preventative, that it was done so the situation wouldn't get worse next season. He described the injury as "deterioration" or "degeneration" of cartilage in the hip.
Rinne, who led the NHL in games played (73) and wins (43) in 2011-12, saw his save percentage fall to .910 this season from .923 in 2011-12 before and .930 in 2010-11. During the lockout, Rinne played with Minsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Rinne, who turns 31 in November, completed the first year of a seven-year deal that will pay him $49 million.
The injury could push the Predators to sign a backup goaltender capable of carrying them through more games in the early part of the season if Rinne is not ready for a heavy load. Rinne's 43 games this season was one behind the League leader, Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.
Chris Mason, 37, who performed the backup role in 2012-13, was on a one-year contract and his .873 save percentage was the lowest of his career since he played three games in his rookie season. Anders Lindback, since traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, served as Rinne's backup the previous two seasons. Rinne has played so many games that in years past, the Predators sent Lindback to the American Hockey League so he could get some games in.