Having some of your top players as free agents can be a sticky situation, and the Boston Bruins are doing their best to hold onto the players they need most. Tuukka Rask, Mike Reilly, and Taylor Hall are three notable names on the team’s free agency list this off-season. In this piece, I’ll take a peek into each player’s time with the Bruins, their expiring contracts, and whether or not they want to continue playing for the franchise.
Rask is currently one of the best goalies in the NHL, and his numbers prove it. In the 2020-21 regular season, he had a 2.28 goals against average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage (SV%). In this year’s playoffs, he had a .919 SV% and a 2.36 GAA.
But the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner won’t be lacing up his skates until January or February of 2022. He’ll soon be undergoing surgery to repair the torn labrum in his hip. Even though Rask won’t be playing for the Bruins for the majority of next season, it doesn’t change the fact that the 34-year-old can’t see himself with another team logo on his sweater.
When asked in the final Bruins press conference if he’s willing to give free agency a try, Rask emphasized his plans to re-sign with Boston for next season.
“No, like I said before, I’m not going to play for anyone else than the Bruins. This is our home. We have three kids. The kids enjoy it here. They have friends in school. We have friends. At this point of my life and my career, I don’t see any reason to go anywhere else, especially with the health I’m looking at now and a recovery time of five or six months. Hopefully it works out that I recover well and then we can talk about contracts when the time is right for that.”
Rask signed an eight-year, $56 million contract in 2013, and the following season, he won the Vezina Trophy. The goalie had a 2.04 GAA, a .930 SV%, seven shutouts, and went 36-15-6. Not too shabby.
Years later, he still manages to put on a show-stopping performance. Prior to the NHL’s COVID-19 related shutdown, he went 26-8-6. Rask ranked first in the NHL in GAA with a 2.12 and had a .929 SV%, ranking second in the league. He had five shutouts, tying with Elvis Merzlikins and Marc-Andre Fleury for second place in the NHL.
Rask is a crucial part of the Bruins roster, and looking at the success he’s had during his time with Boston, it would be shocking if he didn’t re-sign with the franchise during the off-season.
Earning eight assists in 15 regular-season games with the Bruins and four assists in the playoffs, Reilly did his job as a defenseman on the second pairing alongside Brandon Carlo. He filled the defensive slot on the left-side that the Bs were lacking before claiming him late in the season.
Reilly was drafted 98th overall in 2011 by the Columbus Blue Jackets and went on to make his NHL debut on Jan. 9, 2016, against the Dallas Stars. Before he made it to the NHL, the 28-year-old played in the AHL for Iowa during the 2015-16 season, where he totaled 23 points in 45 games before debuting with the Minnesota Wild. The defenseman moved around a fair bit over the last two seasons, being traded from Montreal to Ottawa on Jan. 2, 2020, and then from Ottawa to Boston on April 22, 2021.
His two-year, $3 million contract is coming to a close this year, and while he may have been acquired as a temporary player by the Bruins, Reilly proved he could be an important piece of the black and yellow puzzle that could be a difference-maker in seasons to come.
When asked in the Bruins end-of-season media availability about his contract expiring and if he’d like to stay with the team next season, he seemed optimistic that his time wearing the ‘B’ isn’t up just yet.
“I think it’s mutual right now, between us, to try to get something done. Yeah, I definitely want to stay here, for sure. There’s been some, little bit of talks, but yeah I’ve loved it here. Since day one it’s been an easy transition for me to come in and just get used to everything, how they run the ship down here. So, it’s been great so far, and hopefully stuff can work out.”
Only time will tell if the defenseman will be able to call TD Garden home next season.
General manager Don Sweeney had to have been pleased with his decision to trade for Hall on April 12, 2021. Playing only 16 regular-season games with the Bruins, Hall scored 14 points (eight goals and six assists). He also earned two goals and one assist in the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals.
Hall signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres, with the team retaining 50 percent of the cap hit as part of the trade.
The left-winger is one of the few NHL players to break multiple records by the hockey G.O.A.T. himself, Wayne Gretzky. During Hall’s time with the Edmonton Oilers, he beat Gretzky’s record for the fastest hat trick from the start of a game, which was achieved at 12:38 into the game, established in Gretzky’s 1985-86 season. On March 30, 2013, Hall scored a hat trick at 7:53 into a Vancouver Canucks game, leading them to a 4-0 win.
In the same year, he went on to break Gretzky record no. 2: the fastest back-to-back goals in Oilers’ history. Conquering Gretzky’s feat by one second, Hall scored a pair of goals in eight seconds on October 17, 2013, against the New York Islanders. There has to be something said for breaking not one but two records held by the greatest hockey player of all time.
The former Hart Trophy winner finished in the top three on his team in scoring in five of his first six seasons. Twice in his first four seasons, Hall landed within the NHL’s top 10 goal-scorers. When asked about heading into free agency and whether he thinks he’s a match for the Bruins, Hall described staying with Boston as a goal of his.
“Nothing’s changed since the last time I talked about this. But yeah, I see a fit and hopefully they feel the same. We’ll let the dust settle on everything this year, I’m sure they have a lot of stuff going on and some other guys that have been here longer than me that they have to worry about. And then we’ll figure that out, but hopefully we can make something work. That’s obviously my goal and like I said, hopefully we can make that happen.”
Hall has stressed he doesn’t only want to return to Boston, but he wants a multi-year, long-term contract with the team. Assuming all goes well on the management end of things, we could see Hall signing for a couple more years with the Bs this summer.
Free agency and the off-season is a stressful time for hockey fans. Let’s hope these three ink their names with the Bruins in time for next season. Who do you think might walk this off-season? Will Rask, Reilly, and Hall wear black and yellow for another couple of years? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Courtney is a 22-year-old recent graduate from the University of Western Ontario, earning her Honors Bachelors of Arts degree in Media Information and Technoculture and will be completing her Master of Media in Journalism and Communication beginning in September 2021. She combines her longtime love for hockey, journalism, and sports media as she covers the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers.