“He is arguably the best goalie in the world at his age.” Dont worry, Art Williams has not bought another NHL team. Thats just Nashville Predators GM David Poile describing his five-star goaltending prospect, Brian Finley.
The Preds rewarded Finley with a three-year contract worth just over $6 million and up to over $9 million on Wednesday, two hours before the junior player contract deadline expired. For the next three seasons Finley will make $512,500; $512,500 and $1.025 million. As part of the deal he also recieves a signing bonus worth $1.025 million. The rest of the deal includes several bonuses and performance clauses that make up the contract. The contract’s financial numbers are just over what Preds prospect David Legwand signed at the end of last season.
Finley is expected to back up Tomas Vokoun for about the first week of the season while number one goalie Mike Dunham works out to get back in shape after missing all of training camp over a contract squabble. After the week, Finley will be sent back to Barrie where he will resume his junior career.
The chances are slim that Finley will play any games but the Predators are hopeful that the NHL practice time and just the intensity and experience of the NHL will help Finley mature and continue to progress his development. The hope is this will also be a learning experience for the 18 year old as he spends time with veterans and gets used to the NHL style of play and lifestyle. More importanly, the signing means there will be no distractions for him in the next few years since the contract is already done.
Finley beat out Corey Hirsch in training camp for the job as the back up while Dunham comes back. His preseason numbers should silence any critics who were baffled when the Nashville Predators chose Finley with the sixth overall pick in the 1999 draft. During the preseason, he played in four games allowing just three goals. He led the Preds with a GAA of 1.62 and a save percentage of .929. It appears he and Legwand are the right choices to build the team around for the future.
The signing makes goaltending one of the organazation’s real strong points. The team will have Dunham and Vokoun in Nashville while Finley will be in Barrie. In Milwaukee, the team will have youngster Chris Mason and veteran Corey Hirsch between the pipes if Hirsch clears waivers today. They will have 1999 draft pick and 18 year old Kyle Kettles, playing his first year of junior for Medicine Hat this season, while fellow 1999 draftee Jan Lasak will play for an undetermined ECHL team or as the third string goalie in Milwaukee.