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?