Predators GM David Poile issues challenge to Juuse Saros

The young Predators starter is ready to take the next step.


The future in the crease for the Nashville Predators is now. 

The Pekka Rinne era is officially over, as the winningest goaltender in the history of the franchise officially called it a career this summer. And the man they drafted as his heir and eventually supplanted as the starter is now officially under contract for another four years. 

Juuse Saros officially agreed to a four-year, $20 million contract with the Predators earlier today, avoiding his salary arbitration hearing that had originally been scheduled for Monday. 

"I want to be a leader on the team, kind of continue from where I left off at the end of [last] year," Saros said Friday, four days after he signed a four-year, $20 million contract (average annual value $5 million) with the Predators."

Of course, Saros remains grateful for his experiences learning under his fellow Finnish goaltender and elder statesman in Rinne. 

"I was lucky and grateful for sharing the net with him for four or five years," Saros said. "So yeah, it was a little bit of a sad moment when he said he's not coming back. Personally, I'm ready to take that next step and be the guy in net, take the lead on the team."

For GM David Poile, the young goaltender will be in for quite the challenge in his first full season as the unquestioned number one starter in the Predators crease. 

"There's a lot of things that [Saros] still has to prove," he said. "It'll be his first year without Pekka. In a normal 82-game schedule, he's going to be called on to play more games than he's ever played before."

"Of course, it's a bigger role, but at the same time, it doesn't really change," said Saros.

"I always try to do my best, whatever the role is. So, I think I'll adjust to that. Of course, I played as a No. 1 goalie before, too, in different leagues, but yeah, I'm just ready to get the season going."

Saros recorded a respectable record 21-11-1  a 2.28 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and three shutouts in 36 games with the Predators during the shortened 2020-21 NHL Season, and was also their starter for their Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoffs loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. He went 2-4 with a 2.78 GAA and .921 save percentage in the six games, while also setting the franchise record with 58 saves in Game 4.

Thanks to his efforts, he finished sixth in the Vezina Trophy voting as the League's top goaltender, and 11th in the Hart Trophy voting for most valuable player.

Saros, who was drafted in the 4th round (99th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, has a career record of 76-47-17 in 139 starts, and has also won at least 17 games in each of the past three years. He was also selected to the NHL's All-Rookie Team in 2017-18.