In the most important off-season in Nashville Predators history, one question has been answered while the answer to another awaits.The questions, of course, surrounded whether either of the Predators’ star defensemen, Ryan Suter or Shea Weber, would re-sign with Nashville. As everyone knows by now, Suter signed with Minnesota for a deal that, after state income taxes are considered, was virtually the same money Nashville had offered him.
Now, Preds fans wait to see if Weber will join him; the good news is that some think Nashville will match any offer given to Weber. At the very worst, the Predators could get a significant haul of prospects and/or draft picks should they part ways.
What was particularly painful about losing Suter was that he’d said all the right things about staying in Nashville for so long – which is the same thing that would make losing Weber painful, too. Both players were drafted and developed by Nashville, and like any loyal sports fans, Predators fans felt a strong attachment to both.
In the midst of the waiting, Nashville fans got a bit of a pick-me-up when the Predators signed Chris Mason to a 1-year deal to back up Pekka Rinne on Thursday. While Mason’s signing in no way begins to compensate on-ice for losing Suter, it’s a nice reminder that Nashville is still held in special regard by some of its players. Mason told The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper that his family wanted to move back to Nashville at some point, and $1.25 million dollars later, he’ll get the chance to do that while still playing.
Mason’s history with Nashville goes back a long way. In the Predators’ first year as a franchise (1998-99), the Predators traded for Mason and suited him up for three games. After spending almost all of the next four years in the minors (Mason played one game for Nashville during the 2000-01 season), it wouldn’t be until 2003-04 (17 games) that he got a significant shot in the NHL again.
The next year, of course, the NHL canceled its season due to a dispute between players and owners. Mason played the next year as Nashville’s backup before splitting time with Dan Ellis over the next two seasons.
Since he’s playing behind one of the NHL’s best net-minders in Rinne, who was second in the league with 72 starts last year, Mason will strictly be a back-up. In 20 games with Winnipeg last year, he posted a respectable 2.59 goals-against average in the same role, though that’s a slight drop-off for the Predators from the departed Anders Lindback and his 2.42 mark.
So the Predators’ general manager David Poile can sleep a bit easier knowing he has a backup goalie for next season – and in the nervous moments they’ll experience while waiting for a decision on Weber, Preds fans get a nice reminder that, yes, playing in Nashville does mean something to some of the players for whom they cheer.