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Predators Let Hutton Walk, Re-Ink Prospect Marek Mazanec

Predators Let Hutton Walk, Re-Ink Prospect Marek Mazanec

The Nashville Predators announced Monday that they have signed Czech prospect Marek Mazanec to a one-year, two-way extension. At the same time Predators General Manager announced that Carter Hutton will be seeking other opportunities. Terms for Mazanec’s deal are unavailable at this time.

This leaves the Predators in an interesting situation as far as finding a backup goaltender for next season. The one-year deal for Mazanec doesn’t exactly scream confidence, and its two-way structure allows the Predators some flexibility should they either find a more veteran player to back Pekka Rinne up in Nashville or decide to give their 21-year-old Finnish prospect Juuse Saros some NHL time.

Hutton, 30, joined the team in 2013 as a free agent. Since then he has played 76 games for the Predators with a .910 save percentage. While the Predators leaned on him during starter Pekka Rinne’s long recovery from post-surgical complications in 2013-14, Hutton has never performed much better than average for the team and usually below.

Given Rinne’s less than stellar performance last season, the Predators may be looking for more security in the backup position, or at least the flexibility to move their prospects into the NHL for development time. For his part, it seems that Hutton wants more playing time than the Predators are likely to give him. When Rinne is healthy, he typically carries one of the highest workloads in the NHL, and Hutton played only 17 games in 2015-16. A slot behind a different starter might give him playing opportunities Nashville can’t.

Mazanec, 24, was a 2012 draft pick for the Predators (179th overall) and has played some 27 games with the club since 2013, including 25 games as a rookie in the 2013-14 season. He spent last season with the Milwaukee Admirals,  Nashville’s AHL affiliate, where he essentially split time with Saros. Mazanec played 39 of the team’s 72 regular-season games and posted a .912 save percentage. Saros was, overall, the sightly better performer there, but had his share of struggles, too, and could certainly use some more development time.

And then there’s Jonas Gunnarson, whom the Predators signed as a free agent earlier this month. Gunnarson is 24 and has moved around the Swedish leagues for the past several seasons, posting middling to poor numbers in the SHL but better ones in the Allsvenskan. He has never played in North America and it’s anyone’s guess as to how he will perform on this side of the pond. He will need to earn his spot in the AHL, though it seems unlikely that he will beat out Saros or Mazanec.

About The Author

Clare Austin

Clare Austin is a reluctant "stats nerd" living in Nashville, where she has never worn a cowboy hat or boots.