NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pekka Rinne made sure to stick around Nashville longer than usual after the season ended with the Predators’ first-round playoff exit.
The 2018 Vezina Trophy winner needed time to make a very tough decision to retire after 15 seasons.
“There was two options,” Rinne said Tuesday at a news conference. “Either retire or either continue playing with the Predators. And I appreciate (GM) David (Poile) and everybody else for giving me enough time to make this decision on my own and make a decision that I feel is the right one. And deep down I do feel that.”
Rinne, 38, announced his decision Tuesday morning through a release by the Predators and a post on The Players’ Tribune.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” Rinne said. “I feel like you need so much luck on your side too along the way, and I feel like I’ve had that.”
He made his last start on May 10 in Nashville’s regular-season finale, a 5-0 win over Carolina in which he tied Tom Barrasso for No. 19 in NHL history with his 369th victory. That also was his 60th career shutout, third among active goalies behind Marc-Andre Fleury (66) and Henrik Lundqvist (65).
His career goals-against average of 2.43 is tied for fourth best among goalies with at least 350 wins in NHL history behind only Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur and Jacques Plante. He also is one of 12 goalies in NHL history with at least 350 wins and 60 shutouts.
Rinne had three 40-win seasons, which is tied for second most in NHL history; he is one of seven goalies to reach that mark.
A four-time Vezina finalist and twice runner-up, Rinne went 369-213-75 in his career after being the 258th pick overall in the eighth round of the 2004 draft. The native of Kempele, Finland, also has the most games played, victories and shutouts by a Finnish goalie in NHL history.
Poile congratulated Rinne on an “exceptional career” after giving Nashville a chance to win every game he played during the team’s most competitive era. Poile noted the Predators could have asked no more than what the goalie gave them, and Rinne winning the King Clancy Award provided a perfect ending.
“He’s certainly been the face of the franchise, arguably the most important player that has ever played for the Predators,” Poile said.
The Predators plan to celebrate Rinne’s career throughout the next season when Nashville hosts its first outdoor game Feb. 26 against the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Team president and CEO Sean Henry said he can’t imagine any other player having his jersey retired before Rinne.
Henry credited Rinne’s decision to sign a seven-year extension in November 2011 with helping anchor and grow the franchise even further. Nashville now has six sheets of ice, not counting Bridgestone Arena, with four more under construction and the Predators planning future additions to meet the youth hockey demand.
“That doesn’t happen without a bunch of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 year olds wearing No. 35,” Henry said.
Rinne finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting in 2011 when he helped Nashville win its first playoff series in franchise history, downing Anaheim in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
His best postseason came in 2017 when Rinne led the Predators to their only Stanley Cup Final. Rinne went 14-8 with a 1.96 GAA and .930 save percentage. He helped Nashville sweep Chicago before beating St. Louis, then Anaheim before losing to Pittsburgh in six games in a run Rinne said he’ll never forget.
“The whole run, the whole journey it was so stressful,” Rinne said. “It also showed how difficult it is to win and really makes you appreciate and respect the trophy.”
Rinne finally won the Vezina in 2018. He went 42-13-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with eight shutouts, helping Nashville win the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history.
On Jan. 9, 2020, Rinne became the 12th goalie in NHL history to score a goal off a puck he shot from behind his own goal line into an empty net against Chicago.
The four-time NHL All-Star won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy last month for his leadership qualities on and off the ice. He was selected to the NHL First All-Star Team in 2018 and the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2011.
Rinne became the backup to fellow Finn Juuse Saros this season, and he went 10-12-1. Saros went 21-11-1 helping Nashville claw its way into the playoffs. Rinne says Saros has shown he belongs and is ready to make the next step, which helped him make his decision.
“It is a special relationship,” Rinne said of Saros. “I’ll be watching him for sure. I already talked to him earlier a few days ago. So he’s up to speed.”