If there were a Mount Rushmore of Nashville sports figures, Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne would hands down be on it.
The 38-year-old Finn has long been the face of the Predators franchise since taking over as the starting goaltender in 2008. A model of consistency over the last 13 years, Rinne is nearing the end of his career.
Playing in perhaps his last game in a Predators’ uniform on May 10 — a 5-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes — Rinne was given a standing ovation from the 7,000-plus fans at Bridgestone Arena. Always one to deflect praise, Rinne took a victory lap around the ice and embraced his teammates before exiting the ice.
While he never confirmed it was his final goodbye, it certainly seemed like a curtain call on a historic career. During his exit interview with reporters on Wednesday, Rinne was still mum on what his future holds.
"... I want to give it some time and ... take a step after the season and think about things with my family," Rinne said. "What do I want to do? Obviously, ... I'm thinking about [it] a lot, but I'm not ready to make a decision yet."
Although he has played his entire career with the Predators, next season isn’t Nashville or bust for Rinne, who has plenty of options on the table.
At the beginning of May, a Finnish newspaper reported that Rinne had been in talks with Oulun Karpat — a professional hockey team that plays in SM-liiga in Finland. Rinne played four seasons for the team from 2001-05 before getting drafted by the Predators.
"For sure it's an option to go back home and play," Rinne said. "I've seen the rumors [about] my hometown team. But [I've] played a long time in the NHL and ideally that's a place where I want to retire, at the highest level. So, we'll see about that."
Finland isn’t Rinne’s only option. He stated on Wednesday that although he would like to finish his career with the Predators, he wouldn’t completely rule out playing for an NHL organization other than Nashville.
"I've always said this is my team and I feel like it makes me proud that I've played for only one organization," Rinne said. "But at the same time, I don't want to close any door. I don't want to say anything that I'm going to regret. I want to ... weigh my options here."
The franchise’s all-time leader in games played (683), wins (369), shutouts (60), minutes played (39,413:29) and playoff wins (45), Rinne has meant so much more to Nashville than just his performance on the ice.
Engraining himself in the community, Rinne started the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund, worked with the Best Buddies program, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Peterson Foundation — serving as the gold standard for how to carrying oneself away from the ice.
"[Nashville] has changed my life, my family's life," Rinne said. "My son was born here, and this is my home now. It means everything to me, and I've been so fortunate … [I need to] want to play, and also the team [has] to want me to play. There's always two sides to things, but Nashville is a special city for me."
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_