This offseason is going to be an offseason of uncertainty for the Boston Bruins. General manager Don Sweeney has a handful of key free agents that the organization would like to have back for at least one more run for a Stanley Cup championship with their aging core group.
While Sweeney must find a way to build a competitive roster between his own free agents, free agents from other teams, or through trades, he also has to work around an offseason surgery on a key pending free agent, should the Black and Gold re-sign him. Veteran goalie Tuukka Rask has made it clear that he wants to play in Boston and nowhere else ahead of his free agency. An announcement from Rask at his end of the year media availability on June 11 has put a wrench into the Bruins offseason plans.
Rask announced that he needs surgery for a torn hip labrum and he would not return until January or February of 2022 should he re-sign with the Bruins. If he does re-sign, then the Boston front office needs to decide whether they want to go with their young goalies, Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar, or look in free agency or through a trade to bring in a veteran to play with either young netminder. Here are some free agent goalies that the Bruins could consider signing this summer.
Bernier spent the last three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, compiling a 33-51-9 record on a team that has struggled near the bottom of the standings. This season, he went 9-11-1 with a. 2.99 goals-against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%) for Detroit in the Discover Central Division. It was his highest SV% in five years.
Bernier carried a $3 million cap hit the last three seasons in Detroit on a three-year, $9 million contract and if he becomes a free agent on the open market should the Red Wings move on from him, then the Bruins could be a good fit. Despite just finishing his 10th NHL season, he is 32 years old and would be a good veteran presence with either Swayman or Vladar to work with. His numbers in the last three seasons have been good, considering he was playing on a rebuilding team.
His first season in 2018-19 with the Red Wings saw him have a 3.16 GAA, with a .904 SV%. In 46 games in 2019-20, Bernier dropped his GAA to 2.95 and raised his SV% to .907. Showing that he still can be a good NHL goalie, putting him on a contending team like the Bruins could be a good addition.
Mrazek missed a majority of the shortened 56-game 2021-22 season after undergoing thumb surgery on Feb. 3 after he collided with Carolina Hurricanes teammate Max McCormick in a game against the Dallas Stars. The 29-year-old ended up playing in 12 games, going 6-2-3 with a 2.06 GAA and a .923 SV%. He finished with three shutouts in his six victories.
Mrazek, who was drafted in 2010 by the Red Wings in the fifth-round and 141st overall, carried a $3.125 cap hit on a two-year, $6.25 million contract with the Hurricanes. Despite being sidelined most of this season, he would be a good fit with the Bruins as a tandem with either Swayman or Vladar. As his numbers showed in just 12 games, Mrazek, who has played eight seasons between the Red Wings and Hurricanes, can still play at a high level. He went 4-1-3 following his surgery at the end of the season.
Boston got a first-hand look at Mrazek last season in the Toronto playoff bubble. He went 2-3 with a 2.08 GAA and a .929 SV%, stopping 144 of the 155 shots fired at him by the Bruins and New York Rangers.
If the Bruins are looking to bring an experienced NHL goalie to hold the fort until Rask returns from surgery should he re-sign, then Rinne could be that man. In 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Rinne has won 369 career games with a career 2.43 GAA and a .917 SV%. This past season, he went 10-12-1 with a 2.84 GAA and a .907 SV%. Twenty-six-year-old Juuse Sarus got a lot of the time in the net this season for Predators, going 21-11-1, and playing in all six playoff games. Could Rinne’s time in Nashville be over?
Over the last two seasons, the 39-year-old Rinne played on a two-year, $10 million contract, that carried a $5 million cap hit. Right now, that would be expensive for Sweeney and the Bruins to take on, but if the Predators move on from their eight-round pick at No. 258 in the 2004 Entry Draft, he could be had for a lower cap number. Boston likes their two prospect goalies, but a Rinne/Rask tandem for the second half of the 2021-22 season and postseason could be a good combination to have.
Bruins Have Options
It’s highly unlikely that Jaroslav Halak returns for a fourth season in Boston as a backup with the emergence of Swayman and Vladar this season. It is expected that despite his surgery that will sideline him until early 2022, Rask will re-sign with the Black and Gold. If he does, expect Sweeney to be active in free agency for a goalie to split time with either young goalie. If Rask does not re-sign, expect Sweeney to go after a bigger name in free agency. One of these three free agents would not be a bad option to fall back on.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.