Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne will be headed to the KHL’s Dinamo Minsk, located in Belarus, during the NHL lockout. Rinne confirmed he is close to coming to an agreement, but nothing is finalized yet.
“I haven’t signed yet but I’m pretty close,” he said. “Hopefully everything falls together today.”
Rinne, who has been practicing in Nashville for the past two weeks, added that he will likely leave for Belarus later this week.
“You can’t replace games by practicing. You can’t create that same kind of traffic or create those bounces,” he said. “If you just train, train, train, you lose your sharpness and edge. I just want to make sure I stay focused.”
One deciding factor in choosing the KHL over another European league was that Rinne’s goaltending coach from his playing days in Finland, Ari Hilly, is on the Minsk staff. Another factor was the contract, which Rinne said was “large.”
Once Rinne joins Dinamo Minsk, he will be the most notable NHL player on the team. However, one good thing about signing in the KHL for the lockout is that he will be facing many other NHLers who have already gone overseas.
“It’s the best league right now in Europe. It’s not the NHL but it’s a really good league,” Rinne said. “It’s going to be a different style of play – slower, more passing, more skill – but it’s going to be a good experience for me.”
Like many NHL players, Mike Fisher is frustrated with the current situation.
“It’s obviously unfortunate. We hoped we wouldn’t be in this situation, but we’ve kind of been forced into this,” he said. “We’re not surprised. We knew whatever we had come up with that the owners would turn it down. It’s disappointing, but we’re ready to stand up for what is right, take this as long as we need to go.”
The NHL and NHLPA are scheduled to meet again on Friday in Toronto, but the negotiations aren’t going well and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
“The fact that we are here again after the concessions we gave last time (in 2004-05) and that they are trying to bully us again, it’s unfortunate. We want something that is going to last so we’re not here again in five years, and that’s what we’re trying to do with our deal. They (NHL) are only interested in cutting our salary and bandaid stuff. We want a solution to the whole problem.”
Unlike Rinne, Fisher will not be heading overseas during the lockout.
“I’ll just stay here and train, travel a little bit with my wife,” Fisher said. “I love hockey, I want to play, this is my passion, but it’s not my life. I have other things I enjoy doing. The fall is a good time for fishing and other things. That’s not to say we’re not going to work hard, but there are lots of other things we can enjoy.”
With many NHL players signing in various leagues around the world, Matt Halischuk has given some thought to going overseas – but not too much. He said he would rather stay in Nashville, but added Europe “is an option.”
“For now I’m just taking it day by day and trying to stay ready the best I can,” he said.
Meanwhile, Patric Hornqvist has signed with Djurgarden in Sweden.