Today came the news that Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has signed a seven-year, $49 million extension, the largest contract in franchise history. It’s also the biggest contract, cap hit wise, for a goaltender in the NHL. Here is what Rinne’s agent, Jay Grossman, had to say in a brief interview…
24/7: First of all, your initial thoughts on Rinne’s contract?
Jay Grossman: Obviously there was a long decision-making process, and there are a lot of factors that go into something of this nature and magnitude. I was really proud of Pekka because he’s had two other contract negotiations, which from an agent standpoint, are interesting contracts. I don’t think he really envisioned himself being in this position at the start of his career when he first came over from North America. Quite frankly, we did not want this to go into the season, but it did go into the season. One of the things I was confident about is that he (Pekka) could handle that.
Pekka is now the highest paid goaltender in the NHL. Was that a goal of yours when the negotiation started?
No, it wasn’t really a goal of ours. It was certainly a determination of what his value was or could be if it had gone to the open market. Representing goaltenders is a completely different marketplace than representing positional players. I think it takes a level of understanding, takes a level of weighing a number of different factors that go into the equation. In the end analysis, given his achievements of being second in the Vezina and fourth in the MVP voting – which I think is even more telling that the commitment needed to be substantial – we did not want to enter into a (Ilya) Bryzgalov or (Roberto) Luongo type of deal. We don’t view this as a career-ending deal, necessarily. Obviously, depending on his health, his frame of mind and the way he’s playing – it’s far enough off in the future not to have to think about it now, but you do have to think about it when you’re putting the pieces to the puzzle on a contract.
What was the message GM David Poile relayed to you about getting the ‘big three’ signed and all that?
We didn’t talk a lot about the other guys. Certainly, Pekka is really close with those guys (Weber and Suter) and hopes that they stay, because he wants to play on the best team possible; those guys are the best at what they do. Initially, David did talk about those guys and building a team together. It sort of became clear that it wasn’t going to become a (Mickey) Mantle and (Roger) Maris type negotiation, where the guys were going to team up and have a pool of money and figure out how to divide the pie. We did reach a juncture where we said ‘Do we just put it off until July 1 or do we do the deal now?’ We made the determination to do the deal now.
You mentioned that you didn’t want the negotiation to linger into the season. So I assume it was a goal of yours to get it done before the season started?
It was something that I had expressed to David. It wasn’t something that we were really able to keep to – partially because these things take time and the thought process on our end took time. We just came to a point, at least on our end, where it was either going to be we would sink our teeth into the situation and make the commitment, or weren’t and we were going to go to July 1. Pekka felt confident in his abilities to do that, but once we got to this juncture, with the commitment that the Predators made and the way it played itself out, we were good to move forward.
Do you think this contract sets the bar for other NHL goalies?
There are a lot of unknowns going forward. I think that it certainly is at the top of the marketplace, so on one level I’d say yes. On another level, when you negotiate a contract, you can only negotiate at a specific point in time. The unknowns going forward are probably too numerous to get into at this point. We felt we made the best decision after weighing all of the possibilities.
Note: Grossman mentioned that the contract is not front-loaded; each season is worth $7 million. The contract also includes a no-trade clause.