Question of the Day: The Goaltending Conundrum

(Photo Credit: Hämeen Sanomat)
Juuse Saros is one of the more touted prospects in the Nashville Predators system that has yet to land in North America. Could we see him in Milwaukee next season? (Photo Credit: Hämeen Sanomat)

We are a day between games for the Milwaukee Admirals. They got back into the win column with a 3-0 shutout last night and are set to face the hottest team in the AHL right now, no question about that, the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday.

Rather than look ahead to the short term I thought it’d be fun to think about the long term. Specifically looking at the goaltending position. Both Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec will be restricted-free agents at the end of this season. Then, thinking about the 2015-16 season, there is a very good chance that Juuse Saros will make the leap to North America.

The question is what will the Nashville Predators do in the system next season? Carter Hutton will be in the final of his two-year contract next season and all three of the names above could be positioned to compete for the back-up job to Pekka Rinne down the road – specifically the current tandem with the Admirals right now.

Hellberg is in season three with the Admirals right now and has only logged a cameo appearance with the Predators to date. Mazanec has split his time in the AHL and NHL so far through two seasons: 65 games with the Admirals and 27 games with the Predators. Saros is currently in his second senior playing season with HPK of the SM-Liiga in Finland. He turns 20-years old in mid-April and has already played 87 games in net as a pro.

What I feel makes the most sense would be to tender both RFA’s in Hellberg and Mazanec, as well as bring Saros into the mix in North America, and assess the options come the end of the 2015-16 season. I’d look for Saros to do exactly what has worked well for Jordan Binnington these last two years which is integrate him at the ECHL level for a season before bringing him into the AHL.

The alternatives can go anywhere from trying to trading Hutton and promoting either Hellberg or Mazanec next season, retaining one or both of the current AHL tandem and trading them at the NHL Draft to allow Saros to start next season at the AHL level, or -my idea- keep them all and wait out the season to map things out after the season.

How do you think the Nashville Predators will handle the goaltending situation next season? Where will Juuse Saros fit? Will Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec be back in 2015-16? If you had two chose between Hellberg, Mazanec, and Saros -and could only pick two- which do you pick?

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5 thoughts on “Question of the Day: The Goaltending Conundrum”

  1. Me personally would like to see Nashville draft US and Canadian Goalies. I’m tired to see the Swede, Finn Goalie Train come through Milwaukee. All tall prototypical cookie cutter goalies.

  2. I see them dumping hutton after the year is over and promoting one of the others and letting the othet go allowing Saros to start right out of the gate and pickup a wiley vet to backup him here in MKE

  3. This the “to-be” million dollar question involving the Admirals/Predators isn’t it? My guess is that both goaltenders currently on the roster are currently fighting for the future-Predators-goaltender to-be slot. Simply put at somepoint the Predators franchise is going to have too many netminders and one is going to have to move on to another place. Odds are good there is another goaltender to be picked up/drafted by the organization and added to the mix in the next few years as well.

    Which one that is remains to be seen. Hutton is probably the easiest to move right now, but Mazanec probably has the most value in a trade if the organization wanted to trade a goalie. What has to be enticing for any goaltender in the system is Pekka Rinne. Rinne’s an outstanding goaltender, a better person, and he’s already had a great NHL career. I’d argue with a long playoff run or two upcoming, a NHL Hall-of-Fame worthy one. But the reality is that Pekka is now a 32-year-old goaltender with an unfortunate string of recent injuries. Simply a guess, but I see Rinne having about four more years beyond 2014-2015 as one of the NHL’s elite, aka top ten goalies (maybe more, maybe less). In four years Mazanec would be 27 as would Hellberg. Keeping both goaltenders in the AHL next year (with one more year of Hutton) and then bringing one up as a fulltime backup/load lightener for Rinne seems like a very good plan. At that point I would expect one or the other to be let go in some fashion, be it trade, release, return to Europe.

    For now, it’s just a great problem to have, as I feel great having either Maz or Hells Bells in the net for a AHL playoff series, or two or three or four.

    As far as the US/Canadien vs. European goaltending issue, that is simply an ignorant statement.
    Would it be great to have a player in goal in Milwaukee that is more relatable/recognizable from college/Canadien juniors? Of course it is, but frankly, Nashville has found a ton a value in diamond in the rough European goaltenders. That has allowed the team to draft more skilled players (forwards and defenseman) in the first and second rounds, and so on. I kind of see it as Nashville’s Moneyball philosophy, but the fact is USA goaltending is on the rise, Canadian goaltending is declining, and rather rapidly overall, while the NHL has seen a huge influx in talented European goaltenders. Expect Nashville to continue to pick the best bang for their buck goaltenders that they can find, whether they be American, Canadian, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Polish, Greek, Australian, Chinese or Arabic.

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