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Rinne Will Take Time to Decide Future, Grateful for Support from Preds

Nashville Goaltender Not Ready to Determine What's Next as Offseason Begins for Predators

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

Pekka Rinne wasn't about to give his big "speech" on a video call via his smartphone from his home in Nashville on Wednesday afternoon.

That address - the one where the Predators goaltender, and most popular player the franchise has ever seen, announces he is done playing the game of hockey after a career better than most could ever dream of - will come one day, maybe even within the next few months.

But as Rinne answered questions thoughtfully and appreciatively, just as he always has, six days after Nashville's postseason run came to an end at Bridgestone Arena, he made it clear there is still some pondering to do as he determines what he'll be doing come October.

"I want to give it some time," Rinne said of his future. "I want to take a little [time away from] the season and think about things with my family, and what do I want to do? Obviously, it's a thing that I'm thinking about a lot, but again, I'm not ready to make a decision yet.

"No. 1, to play in this level, it's the passion. You know how much work needs to be done and put into it. To me, that's the most important things are the love for the game, the passion, and I feel like I still have that. And then obviously my family, they love to see me play, but there are a lot of things. I tried to factor in every possible scenario and also have a few options. I feel like I just need to take my time. Obviously, I'm thinking about it all the time and, but I'm not stressing. I'm in a good place and just trying to try to give myself a chance to not regret any decision I make."

The 38-year-old netminder, who has spent his entire NHL career with the Preds, including 13 full seasons with most of those holding the starting job, is without a contract for the 2021-22 campaign. Thinking about retirement is a logical step for Rinne, who is now a father and knows he can only continue to play the game for so long before he simply can't perform at the level necessary to compete in the top League in the world.

But after a bounce-back season that saw him settle nicely into a backup role to fellow Finn Juuse Saros, Rinne showed he still has what it takes to play for the Predators. After 11 seasons where he was clearly "the guy" in Nashville, Rinne admitted there's been an adjustment period over the past year or so, but he now feels comfortable sitting on the bench more than he ever has before.

"There were times when it was tough on me, and for such a long time, I played a lot of games and didn't really have to worry about my playing time," Rinne said. "I feel like this season was a lot easier, and obviously makes it easier that Juuse is my partner. I'm genuinely so happy, so proud of the guy and the way he's playing, so I feel like this season was a lot easier, and I think it was something that I was able to prepare for… I feel like Juice was the biggest reason why we made it to the playoffs, and myself, I've been in those situations where you carry the load at the end of the season. I was there to support him and support my team, and I totally accept my role, but it has been a big change."

Despite Rinne finding himself watching more games than playing in them, his standing in the Nashville locker room as the most respected player in the organization hasn't changed. If anything, the veteran netminder is held in even higher regard as he continues to do whatever he can to contribute to his team's success.

"Peks has been such a huge part of this franchise," Preds Captain Roman Josi said of Rinne. "[The partnership between Rinne and Saros], when you come up like Juice has as a young kid, there's nobody better to look up to than Peks, and I think Peks has done an unbelievable job. I mean, obviously this year, it wasn't easy, but I think every time he played, he was unbelievable and he's still an amazing goalie. Peks was great this year, and he's probably the most respected guy on our team. When he says something, everybody listens, and the way he handled the whole year, it's been unbelievable. He's such a great teammate, and he's still an unbelievable goalie, so I think he's got a lot of years left."

"He's just been such an incredible person on and off the ice, especially off the ice," Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm said of Rinne. "He just conducts himself to the game in a way that's just pure class. I don't have enough good things to say about him. He's been a leader in the city, in this community, and he's going to go down as one of, if not the greatest Predator to ever put this uniform on. So, I hope he comes back. I think he has a lot more to give, and that's obviously up to him to decide that, but there's probably not another player I have more respect for than him."

That admiration was on full display as Rinne got the start and pitched a 5-0 shutout over Carolina in Nashville's final game of the regular season. After the goaltender's teammates congratulated him on the win, and Rinne was named the game's first star, the Preds weren't ready to leave the ice.

Thousands of Preds fans inside Bridgestone Arena weren't going anywhere either, and Rinne later revealed it was veteran forward Brad Richardson who told him to take a lap to acknowledge the faithful.

Rinne's skate only lasted for a minute or two, but it instantly went down as one of the top moments in franchise history - and just in case that was it for Rinne, the script couldn't have been written much better.

On Wednesday, Rinne was asked if there were any top memories he'd like to reflect on, but the goaltender wasn't ready to do that just yet. Instead, he reiterated what we already know - Music City means more than an eighth-round pick out of Finland could have ever imagined, and no matter what's next, he'll always hang his heart in Tennessee.

"[Living in and playing Nashville], it has changed my life, my family's life," Rinne said. "My son was born here, and this is my home now. It means everything to me, and I've been so fortunate. So, I met up with [Predators General Manager] David [Poile], and we have plans to sit down in a few weeks and we're going to give ourselves more time, and at the same time, it goes both ways. [I need to] want to play, and also the team [needs] to want me to play. There's always two sides to things, but anyways, Nashville, it's a special, special city for me."

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