In many ways a goaltender in hockey is similar to a pitcher in baseball. It's a solitary position.

A pitcher stands alone on a mound the whole game. A goaltender stands in his crease. Both players can break down, and the quality of their performances can vary greatly from one season to the next, sometimes from one game to the next.

The Predators took a gamble on Thursday, signing goaltender Pekka Rinne to a seven-year contract worth $49 million. While there is ample evidence that it's money well spent, historical context with goalies given long-term deals shows there is still some hazard.

"Miikka Kiprusoff is a Vezina Trophy winner, and you would never know that if you look at him now," Sporting News hockey columnist Jesse Spector said. "Certainly Nikolai Khabibulin is off to a wonderful start in Edmonton, but look where he was last year."

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers hasn't had a save percentage lower than .916 since his new deal began in 2008. Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes was an All-Star last season, the first year of a six-year deal.