There have been reports that former Boston Bruins franchise goaltender Tuukka Rask has started to skate and train again. The rumour mill has also started turning with everyone speculating where and when he will sign with a team in the NHL. He is currently an unrestricted free agent after playing 664 total games for only the Bruins in his career.
If Boston has any thoughts about bringing Rask back to the team, I would advise against it for multiple reasons. You can see some obvious comparisons between the goaltending situation with the Dallas Stars and what would happen if Rask returned to the Bruins. Jeremy Swayman would most likely be the odd man out and it would stunt his development at the NHL level when he is clearly ready. Another route would be having to trade someone, and that would be Linus Ullmark, which wouldn’t make sense after just signing him to a four-year, $5 million AAV (average annual value) deal.
Of course, you can look at it another way, he is one of the best goalies of all time and a huge reason why the team has been Cup contenders year after year. Rask is a former Vezina Trophy winner, William M. Jennings Trophy winner, and a two-time all-star. He holds the franchise record for most games played as a goalie in regular-season play (560), best save percentage (SV%) with .922 among goalies who played more than 30 games with the franchise, and most wins (306).
Swayman Needs to Play in the NHL
At this point, though only 22 years of age, Swayman has proven himself to be able to compete in the NHL. He has only appeared in 17 NHL games, but it seems like a lot more and he is definitely ahead of where most goalies his age are in their development.
Swayman has put up great numbers anywhere he has gone, and the NHL has been no different. With a record of 12-5-0 and a .933 SV%, 1.77 GAA, and two shutouts, he has more than proven he can be an efficient backup or a 1A/1B goaltender. At the price tag of $925k for this year and next, the Bruins would be wise not to waste an entry-level contract like that. Teams that win championships have multiple players stepping up to play above their paygrade before they earn their paycheck and either hinder the team or move on.
You can see similarities between what would happen with Swayman if he is sent to Providence of the American Hockey League (AHL) and the situation Jake Oettinger of the Stars is in right now. With Ben Bishop injured for the foreseeable future before the season began, the Stars could’ve realistically run with the goaltending tandem of Oettinger and Anton Khudobin, allowing Oettinger to get better acquainted with the NHL.
It’s not like he hasn’t proven himself early on when he stepped up into the starting role for the Stars last season. He is the goalie of the future and has spent a good amount of time in Texas of the AHL already. Unlike Swayman, he didn’t come out of nowhere, the Stars knew what they had when they drafted him and hoped he would step into this role for the future. Sometimes, overdevelopment can hurt a player’s growth too. While goalies tend to take longer to develop into NHL talent, we’re seeing a trend of NHL-ready goalies at a younger age as the league is getting younger as a whole.
Bruins Shouldn’t Fix What Isn’t Broke
Another option that would make a lot less sense but is still an option if Rask signs for multiple years is trading one of Swayman or Ullmark. Realistically, trading either of them would be a bad move considering they both have shown great promise and Swayman is 22 while Ullmark is only 28. Rask turns 35 in a few months and the Bruins will have to make an effort to get younger and build around the young talent as their reliable veterans move past their primes.
It may also be tough to work Rask into the cap if they sign him for more than a year, even though he stated he’d take less. Patrice Bergeron needs a contract after this season and Jake DeBrusk’s contract is up, even though I don’t think they’ll keep him around any longer. Charlie McAvoy‘s $9.5 million contract kicks in starting next season, a $4.6 million raise for him alone.
The Negatives of Holding too Many Goaltenders
It would look really bad on an organization to sign someone to a multi-year deal and then turn around and trade them in the midst of the first season after performing well. The same goes with the Stars. It is a little different as they signed Brayden Holtby to only a one-year deal, still pushing Oettinger back to the AHL. The general assumption was that they would move Khudobin before the season started, but that wasn’t the case.
Now we’re past the 15-game mark and Bishop may be returning sometime in the near future so they would have four NHL-capable goaltenders in their system while other teams are desperate for goaltending help. Sure, this allows the Stars to be the hub of where any general manager (GM) in need of a goalie will call. But without executing anything, it’s worthless. The leverage may swing in the favour of the GM calling if it’s clear to see the Stars have too many goalies on the roster and one would have to be dealt or go through waivers and be lost for nothing.
The Bruins need to start looking to the future and trusting in who they have in goal right now. Ullmark and Swayman are great goaltenders and can win games if needed. We’ve seen it with Ullmark in the past in Buffalo and Swayman is the fourth goaltender to start his career 8-0-0 at home in NHL history. Unless Swayman really starts to struggle and it looks like he’s in need of more development, let’s see what he can continue to do. This saves money and space for the Bruins to go out and upgrade at another position for another playoff run.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.