The Nashville Predators will not look for a veteran goalie to replace Dan Ellis, who will become an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires at the end of June.
Their decision to sign 2008 draft pick Anders Lindback on Wednesday all but guaranteed that is the case.
“We’ll see how everything plays out, but that’s what it seems is going to happen,” assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. “We still have a lot to talk about, and we have a logjam there we’ll have to sort through.”
Lindback, a seventh round choice (207th overall) is the fifth goalie – all of them Predators’ draft picks – under contract for the coming season. Pekka Rinne is the only one with NHL experience, but behind him are Mark Dekanich and Chet Pickard, who split duties last season at Milwaukee, and Jeremy Smith, who played at Cincinnati in the East Coast Hockey League.
Ellis has made it clear that he intends to explore his options in free agency and expects to find a team that will offer him more playing time than he had with Nashville.
That makes Dekanich, who has spent the last two seasons in the AHL, the leading candidate to be Rinne’s backup. Pickard, Smith and Lindback then would be spread among the two available AHL spots and the one in the ECHL.
“(Dekanich) had a tough start last season in dealing with being a No. 1 for the first time (professionally),” Fenton said. “Probably around Christmas he settled in and was real good after that. Pickard was good too, and Smith was very good at Cincinnati.
“Obviously, we have some choices to make, but the good news is that we have choices. There should be a lot of competition there.”
A native of Sweden, Lindback was among the top 10 last season in save percentage, goals-against average and shutouts in that country’s top professional league. He also made his first appearance with the national team at the recently completed World Championships and helped Sweden with a bronze medal.
He will be at the Predators’ prospects conditioning camp in July and with the team in training camp. He then will play his first season in North America,
At 6-foot-6, he is the tallest player ever drafted by Nashville.
“He’s very athletic,” Fenton said. “He plays a style that is similar to (Rinne).”
Under current international transfer rules, the Predators had until late June to sign him or they would have lost his rights.