NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For teams that need to add a goalie this summer, the best options won't come through unrestricted free agency. It's in the young crop of restricted free agents where the best options reside. That's nothing new. The future of Vancouver's Cory Schneider, Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier and even Boston's Tuukka Rask have been debated thoroughly. But there's a goalie in Nashville's Anders Lindback who is often left off that list. He shouldn't be.
He's a restricted free-agent goalie who is ready to start. And it's quite possible that of all four of those young options, he's the most likely to be on a new team next season. In fact, it's hard to imagine him in a Predators uniform next year at all -- for a number of reasons.
For one thing, the goalie in front of him is signed for the next seven years at a healthy average annual salary of $7 million. Pekka Rinne has a stranglehold on the starter job in Nashville and isn't going anywhere. That was clear when he signed.
"I was really happy for Pekka. He's an unbelievable guy and good friend of mine," Lindback said. "I was just happy for him. Of course, it maybe doesn't [make] the best situation for me."
Rinne has proved he's capable of carrying a heavy load in goal, and there's no reason for the Predators to invest heavily in a backup. To keep this team somewhat intact, serious raises are coming for Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Alex Radulov, which doesn't leave a lot of money for the backup goalie. Ideally, the Predators would slot someone in the $600,000 range -- a number south of what Lindback will earn next season.
Offer sheets are a rarity in the NHL these days, but it would certainly be an option for Lindback, because the compensation wouldn't be outrageous. Columbus GM Scott Howson said he'd at least consider that option when looking to upgrade the Blue Jackets' goalie situation. Let's say he signed Lindback to a two-year, $3 million offer sheet. That annual salary of $1.5 million would require just a third-round pick in compensation under the current rules. Considering that Ben Bishop went for a second-rounder, that's not a bad investment for the Blue Jackets.
But the much more likely scenario is a trade. Around the deadline, the Predators surrendered a first-round pick and a pair of second-rounders in their attempt to bolster the roster for their playoff run. They need to get some of those picks back this summer.
"They've got to collect some picks to make up for that. This organization can't live unless they have those picks," said an NHL source.
Another reason Lindback will be moved is simply because he's ready. The 6-foot-6 Swede put in two years of apprenticeship under Rinne and has a record of 16-13-2, with a 2.53 goals-against and .914 save percentage in that span.
"He's awesome," Rinne said. "He's ready to play at this level and he's proven that. I think it's just the way he carries himself. He always comes to the rink with a smile on his face and works extremely hard. He's the real deal. He's just a great, great guy. Guys respect him in the locker room. I expect big things from him."
The projected destinations are no surprise. Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman wisely stockpiled draft picks at the deadline that he'll use as ammunition to upgrade his goaltending. It's safe to say that the Lightning were an effective and consistent goalie away from being a playoff team this year.
The Blue Jackets have identified two key areas in which they want to upgrade: goaltending and reshaping their forwards.
"The goaltending has to be better for us to have success," said Howson when we chatted in March. "The goaltending could get better internally but it will more likely get better externally."
The Toronto Maple Leafs are another team that is a good goalie away from being a playoff team. James Reimer is still under contract but Brian Burke will look to upgrade the spot created by Jonas Gustavsson's expected departure.
The debate Toronto has to sort out is whether it wants a young goalie with upside to pair with Reimer or a veteran goalie with a track record.
"We'll sort that out," Burke said, according to the Toronto Sun. "It's a fair question."
• The New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers finally begin their series tonight, and the Sun Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov pointed out today that the Panthers are more than happy to move on to the playoffs, where the shootout and four-on-four overtime are replaced by the traditional five-on-five sudden death. The Panthers weren't particularly good this season once they got to overtime.
"Horrible," Kevin Dineen told Fialkov. "We didn't score in shootouts and we didn't have a good overtime record. It put a lot of stress on us near the end, not only to make the playoffs but to win the division." The Devils, meanwhile, led the league with 12 shootout wins.
"I guess that means we're going to have a lot of overtime games," Devils forward Zach Parise joked.
• Last night, Martin Havlat scored two goals to elevate the San Jose Sharks to a Game 1 win over the St. Louis Blues. One more and he matches Dany Heatley's total in 18 games last season during the playoffs. The success of the Heatley-for-Havlat swap for San Jose will be measured by how Havlat performs this postseason. Evaluating it for the Wild is a little more challenging, as Ben Goessling pointed out in the Pioneer Press.
Heatley led the Wild in goals with 24 and points with 53, and Goessling said Mike Yeo called him the team's most valuable player. But Minnesota finished No. 12 in the West, and Heatley's numbers were well below stats he posted earlier in his career -- the kind of seasons that made his $7.5 million annual salary reasonable.
"I would have liked to see the puck go in a lot more than it did," Heatley told Goessling. "We had some good times with Mikko [Koivu]. We developed some chemistry when we were playing together but there were ups and downs, things I can improve on and things to work on for next year."
• There was considerable debate Thursday as to whether the NHL's punishment of $2,500 to Shea Weber fit the crime of smacking Henrik Zetterberg's head against the glass at the end of Game 1 (it didn't). But maybe the biggest thing to come out of it was the idea that Brendan Shanahan needs more supplemental discipline options than just the option to suspend or fine a multimillionaire a couple grand.
Considering that James Wisniewski's preseason suspension cost him over half a million dollars, $2,500 is ridiculously low. In the NFL, players are fined twice that amount for wearing the wrong socks. Or four times that for wearing the wrong hat during postgame interviews, as Wes Welker learned. But the solution I liked best came from Bob Wojnowski in the Detroit News, who suggested that postseason penalties like Weber's committed in the final seconds of the game be carried over to the next playoff game. There would be much less outrage over the fine if the Red Wings started Game 2 with a 10-minute power play.