The first domino in the goaltending situation for this off-season has fallen. Though, I can’t imagine how many people had this one on their radar. The Nashville Predators have announced this morning that they have signed goaltender Jonas Gunnarsson to a one-year entry level contract.
Press Release via Milwaukee Admirals:
Milwaukee, WI–Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed free-agent goaltender Jonas Gunnarsson to a one-year entry-level contract.
Gunnarsson has spent the past two seasons with the Malmo Redhawks of the Swedish Hockey League. In 2015-16 the Eksjö, Sweden native played a league-high 44 games, ranking ninth among netminders in save percentage (.913) despite his team finishing 12th out of 14 teams, and in 2014-15, he ranked ninth in Swedish second division goals-against average (2.28), helping Malmo earn promotion to the SHL.
From 2009-14, the 6-foot-2, 198-pound netminder played with HV-71’s under-18, junior and SHL teams, winning the junior league title in 2013 and a silver medal in 2012. In 2010-11, Gunnarsson was named the junior league’s top goaltender after posting a league-high .932 save percentage, and in 2013-14, he was a teammate of Predators 2014 first-round selection Kevin Fiala. Gunnarsson also played with Predators defenseman Petter Granberg at the 2010 Under-18 World Championship, helping the Tre Kronor earn a silver medal.
The Admirals will open the home portion of the 2016-17 on October 29th at 7 pm at the UWM-Panther Arena. The complete schedule will be released later this summer.
Gunnarsson is coming off of his strongest senior playing season in the top flight of the Sweden Hockey League (SHL) with the Malmö Redhawks. The 24-year old held a stat-line of 2.47 goals against average and a 0.913 save percentage from 44 games. Prior to this season he had only played 27 games at the SHL level but did take on a large role for Malmö in the 2014-15 season, playing 25 games with a 2.28 goals against average, in the second tier of Swedish hockey (Allsvenskan). Malmö would be promoted to the top flight on the back of that season.
This paints one interesting picture for Marek Mazanec. If this were Janne Juvonen I wouldn’t be thinking too much just yet, with him being slightly younger at 21-years of age, but this isn’t the case. Gunnarsson is just shy of the age of Mazanec. Even more importantly, this is a one-year entry level contract so he is going to be making the jump to North America. Pekka Rinne is set in Nashville. Juuse Saros is set in Milwaukee. Who gets the back-up role in Nashville was always a two-horse race. I felt the option to keep Carter Hutton was possible. I felt the option to possibly even keep Mazanec as a third choice goaltender for the Predators was possible if Hutton re-signed. Now, with Gunnarsson signed and Brandon Whitney already contracted for the season as an ECHL option for the Admirals, I can’t see a path back for Mazanec to stay should Hutton re-sign.
If you are the Nashville Predators how do you fill the back-up role next season? Do you feel Marek Mazanec would be serviceable in that role? Has Mazanec performed well enough to back-up in Nashville?
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