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Thoughts A Brewin’: Saros Set to Sign Extension with Predators

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Photo of Juuse Saros by John Russell/Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators appear to have determined their franchise goaltender. 

Per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and later followed up by Chris Johnston and Pierre LeBrun of TSN, general manager Barry Trotz and goaltender Juuse Saros have agreed to sign an eight-year, $61.92 million extension ($7.74 AAV) on July 1 to keep the 29-year-old in a Predators uniform.

Saros is entering the final year of his four-year, $20M contract signed in August 2021. 

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, impending free agents are available to sign extensions as early as the July 1 the year before their contract is set to expire. 

It’s undeniable that Saros’ previous deal was team friendly. A franchise goaltender at $5M AAV is a steal.

But the goaltending market is set for a massive pay raise as illustrated by Connor Hellebuyck‘s extension last fall with the Winnipeg Jets and the likely, impending blockbuster awaiting Igor Shesterkin with the New York Rangers.

While many have been pounding the drum for a Saros trade for a massive return, the truth of the matter is the goaltending market is and never really has been incredibly valuable. The two most recent goaltending trades welcomed modest returns. The New Jersey Devils acquired Jacob Markstrom from the Calgary Flames in exchange for upcoming defenseman Kevin Bahl and a first-round pick in the 2025 draft. The Boston Bruins sent Linus Ullmark, the Vezina Trophy winner from last season, to the Ottawa Senators for a depth forward, second-tier goaltender in Joonas Korpisalo with salary retained, and a first round pick in the 2024 draft. It’s safe to say that none of these returns would have brought excitement to the Nashville fanbase or front office in the event the Predators offloaded Saros. 

I previously wrote about how I would have liked negotiations between Trotz and Saros to go with a final ideal projection to be six years, $7.25M AAV with the potential of a modified no-trade clause. However, a full no-trade would be a non-starter for me.

Trotz previously discussed on 102.5 The Game with Jared Stillman that he believed Saros has earned some type of protection in his next contract. This has me leaning towards the final deal including a modified no-trade clause. Perhaps an 8-15 team list for the first four years and a full no-trade the final three or four. 

Saros will be 30 when this contract begins. It makes sense from his perspective to be protected as the contract ages, especially with him recently getting married and perhaps wanting to start a family. No one wants to uproot their family, especially in their late thirties. I respect that. 

Trotz would maintain control and a large amount of flexibility if a limited no-trade was the result. This  would permit the Predators to see how Yaroslav Askarov responds to this news and the coming adversity he will face. No player likes to be sent back to the AHL, but it’s looking like Askarov may get that call. We all know Trotz’s affinity for letting players “marinate” in Milwaukee. 

After this deal, it’s my prediction Askarov is used as a part of trade package soon. While I have been a strong advocate for a Saros-Askarov tandem, this deal makes that difficult to see long term. As I’ve written, no athlete wants to play second fiddle. If Askarov is willing to swallow his pride and stick around by signing an extension when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer, this could work. 

This will show who Askarov really is. I admire the young Russian. But we’ve all been 22 and know what it feels like to have our ego tested. His good friend Egor Afanasyev was recently in the same boat. It’s also relevant to note that Afanasyev and Askarov share the same agent, Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey. 

My short-term prediction is Trotz will float Askarov out there as he did last summer at the draft to see what may be available. If a young, offensive talent can be a part of the return, he will jump. If not, he’s happy to see how Askarov responds. There’s certainly no rush to get anything done if, in fact, the Saros deal is done and finalized July 1. 

While this result was not my ideal scenario, I’ve always believed a negotiation produces a solid result when both parties leave somewhat disappointed. I think here Saros gave up money for term, while Trotz gave up term for money. It’s not a bad deal.

The ultimate question is: what type of protections did Saros receive? That will be the true indicator of this deal, in my opinion.

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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