Finley Emerges As Future Star
Despite an impending demotion back to junior hockey, Brian Finley has clearly established himself as a top flight prospect this week. After an impressive training camp which put him in serious contention for the backup goaltending job in Nashville, Finley was signed to a three-year contract on Wednesday. The contract has a potential value of over $9 million, but most of the money is tied to performance bonuses at the NHL level. The deal will pay Finley a base salary of $525,000 in each of his first two years, with a healthy increase to $1.025 million for the third year. The bonuses are based on statistics and earning votes for NHL awards, such as the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. Since Finley will likely spend the entire 1999-2000 season in the OHL, he will not have an opportunity to earn those bonuses. And unless he can make the team and get significant playing time at some point during the next two years, it is unlikely that he will collect on them at all.
However, the Predators are certain that Finley is a franchise goaltender who can become a star in the NHL. General Manager David Poile considers him to be the best goaltender in the world at his age and it is difficult to argue that notion. Very few 18 year-old goaltenders have ever made a serious challenge for a roster spot in the NHL and there are not many goaltending prospects of any age who are better than Finley right now. His dramatic impact in training camp is what spurned Poile to sign Finley by the NHL deadline on Wednesday. Poile wanted to make sure a deal was in place, so the Finley can focus on his development and feel confident that he has a contract to match his status in the organization.
The signing also allows Nashville to keep Finley for at least the first two regular season games, until veteran goaltender Mike Dunham is in game shape. Dunham ended his contract dispute earlier this week and will need at least a few days of practice until he is ready for action. Meanwhile, Finley will serve as backup to Tomas Vokoun, who will the be starter when the Predators open the season against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.