Bruins’ Jeremy Swayman a Victim of Circumstance

After months of waiting, the Boston Bruins finally signed Tuukka Rask to a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday. It’s nice to see the veteran netminder back, as he has had a remarkable tenure with the franchise. Yet, as expected, goaltender Jeremy Swayman has become the odd man out and is back with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Considering the Bruins’ goaltending trio, it had to be Swayman heading to the minors. Because he is still on an entry-level contract, he was the only goalie who didn’t need to clear waivers to be sent down, which makes him the lone victim of the Rask signing – and it’s hard not to feel bad for him.

Swayman Has Proven He’s an NHL Goaltender

When Swayman made his NHL debut with the Bruins last season, he was phenomenal. In 10 games, he had a 7-3-0 record, a 1.50 goals-against average, and a .945 save percentage. Of course, there were also some questions about how he would perform during his first full season in Boston. Young goaltenders can be inconsistent, especially at the start of their careers. That and Rask’s long-term injury sparked the Bruins to sign Linus Ullmark during the summer. They also traded fellow rookie Daniel Vladar to the Calgary Flames in the process.

Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This season, Swayman’s play doesn’t warrant a demotion. In 16 games with the Bruins, he has an 8-6-2 record, a 2.26 goals-against average, and a .918 save percentage; the latter stats are a perfect indication that he’s an NHL-caliber goalie. At times, he’s looked stronger than Ullmark, who has an 11-5-0 record, but also a .2.57 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they show that it’s arguable who is the better goaltender, and neither has struggled enough to be demoted from an NHL roster.

Will Swayman Benefit From Being Back in Providence?

Given his performance in Boston, Swayman should be dominant in the AHL, and Providence will benefit from having an NHL goaltender on their roster. They have a 13-9-3 record and are fourth in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, so he should help their chances of making the playoffs. Yet, it’s worth considering how much Swayman can improve against weaker competition.

Related: What Tuukka Rask Returning Means for the Bruins

The big positive here is that he will be playing regularly. With Ullmark, Swayman didn’t have too many stretches starting multiple games in a row. He will have that opportunity in the AHL, and he should stay fresh when the Bruins eventually need to call him up. It’s better he play with Providence, waiting for a call-up, than ride the pine as a third-string goalie in Boston.

Stars’ Jake Oettinger Can Relate

Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars can relate to the situation. After a strong rookie campaign in 2020-21, the 23-year-old found himself back in the AHL with the Texas Stars this season because, with too many goalies on the roster, he was also the only one who didn’t have to clear waivers. The Stars started the season with offseason acquisition Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin as their duo, while Ben Bishop was also aiming for a comeback, but a knee injury forced him to retire after just one appearance in Texas. 

Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

The upside here is that, after Khudobin had a disastrous start to the season, he was placed on waivers and sent to the minors. This, in turn, cemented Oettinger’s spot with the NHL team, and he has been excellent since. In 11 games this season, he has an 8-2-0 record, a 2.22 goals-against average, and a .923 save percentage. Oettinger’s demotion to the minors didn’t impact his NHL ability, and if he keeps playing this well, he won’t be heading back there. Perhaps the same will happen to Swayman. 

Although the goalie situation in Boston is a bit different, Swayman should pay close attention to Oettinger’s journey. Just because he is with Providence now doesn’t mean he won’t return to Boston shortly. The Rask signing is a good one. The team landed their all-time winningest goalie on a team-friendly deal, which couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bruins, who have a 19-11-2 record and rank fourth in the Atlantic Division. However, even with all of this, we can’t ignore that Swayman has done more than enough to be an NHL goalie, and he should be the future of Boston’s crease.

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