goalie Pekka Rinne
admitted disappointment last month after learning he would not be joining his fellow countrymen with Team Finland at the 2010 Winter Games.
He had plenty to smile about Wednesday, however, when Predators General Manager David Poile signed Rinne to a two-year contract worth $6.8 million. The deal will pay the 27-year-old Finn $2.8 million in 2010-11 and $4 million in 2011-12. Rinne would have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 had he not signed this new deal.
"Finland has so many good goalies and it would have been an amazing honor to make the team, but obviously I was disappointed when I wasn't named," Rinne told NHL.com. "But how could you argue with the players there (Miikka Kiprusoff
, Niklas Backstrom
and Antero Niittymaki
)? Overall, I think we had a really good team -- a team that can surprise anybody."
Rinne is 20-12-4 record in his second full season with the Predators. As a rookie last season, he ranked among the League leaders in shutouts (tied for fourth with a franchise-record seven), goals-against average (sixth, 2.38) and save percentage (tied for ninth, .917), in addition to finishing fourth in voting for the Calder Trophy.
His 29 victories also tied for the ninth-most by a first-year goalie in NHL history.
"It was an amazing season," Rinne said. "You work for that. I played three years in the minors (AHL Milwaukee), and you kind of feel it's so close. But being a goalie, you always feel so far since there are only two spots on the team. It's a thing where you can prove to yourself and prove to your teammates that you can play in this League and that was the biggest thing."
Rinne was an eighth-round (No. 258) steal for Nashville in the 2004 Entry Draft. In 95 NHL games, he's 50-28-8, with a 2.56 GAA, .911 save percentage and 10 shutouts.
He represented Finland on an international stage for the first time in the 2009 World Championships in Switzerland, starting six of his country's seven games. He didn't disappoint, either, as he was named one of Finland's three best players in the tournament, and ranked third in goals-against average (1.93) and sixth in save percentage (.926).
During the Olympic break, Rinne returned home to Kempele, Finland.
"I worked out and did something every day at the gym," he said. "I will watch the Olympics and hopefully get to see a couple games back home (in Finland)."
Poile has stated that he likes his current two-goalie rotation of Rinne and Dan Ellis
. The Predators are one of only two teams with 17 games in the month of March -- strong goaltending will obviously be critical.
Rinne and Ellis were both slated to become unrestricted free agents in July. With Rinne now signed, it brings Ellis' future in Nashville into question.
"Playing with Dan makes things so much easier," Rinne said. "We get along so well and that's a key thing. There's a competition between us, but that only makes you better. It's only hockey, and off the ice we're good friends and he's the nicest guy you'd want to meet."
Rinne said the Predators could make some noise if they qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The club is seventh in the Western Conference with 71 points -- two more than No. 8 Calgary.
"We've been a little inconsistent, but we just have to be more conscious," Rinne said. "It's all about confidence right now."
Rinne enjoys playing for long-time Nashville coach Barry Trotz
"I think he treats you like his own kids," Rinne said. "It's a really fun, good atmosphere in our locker room and you feel like you get the support. He's just really personable and knows his players and knows what to do with them."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale.