Predators and Rinne agree to seven-year extension
Nashville Predators" Pekka Rinne tosses a water bottle to the bench during a break in the second period of their NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Alberta October 22, 2011. Reuters

(Reuters) - The Nashville Predators and Finnish netminder Pekka Rinne have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, worth around $49 million, it was announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old Rinne was set to become a free agent at the end of the season but Nashville general manager said the Predators wanted to secure his long-term services.

Today's signing is further evidence of our ownership's commitment to keeping our core intact, Poile said in a statement. This is the first step of a process designed to retain our key players and leaders.

Pekka has grown with our franchise, just recently established our franchise record for career shutouts and is now recognized as one of the game's elite players.

Taken in the eighth round of the 2004 NHL draft, Rinne has established himself as one of the league's premiere netminders. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season and notched his 100th career win on Saturday shutting out the Anaheim Ducks 3-0.

With two shutouts this season, Rinne has boosted his career total to 22 moving him into first on the franchise's all-time list.

Last season, Rinne posted a 33-22-9 record and helped Nashville reach the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time and has also represented Finland in two of the past three World Championships.

With Rinne locked up, the Predators were expected to turn their attention to signing defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea to long term deals.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Julian Linden)