What Tuukka Rask Returning Means for the Bruins

After months of waiting, Tuukka Rask is finally on the verge of returning to the Boston Bruins. The 34-year-old goaltender signed a professional tryout agreement earlier this week with the Providence Bruins with the expectation to get into some game action. It’s certainly important for him to get playing time, as he had labrum surgery on his hip during the offseason. Yet, the American Hockey League (AHL) games he was expected to start were sadly postponed. Now, the Finnish goalie may end up joining the NHL club before even suiting up with Providence, according to head coach Bruce Cassidy. With this, we could be seeing him very soon.

It will be exciting once Rask is back with the team, but this move does provide the Bruins with some changes that are worth noting. Let’s dive into some important ones.

A Trio of Goaltenders

Once Rask is officially back with the NHL club, it will give the Bruins three NHL-caliber goaltenders. This certainly is a major positive, especially when looking at the rise of COVID-19 cases around the league. Furthermore, as the season progresses, we, unfortunately, could see at least one of these goaltenders sustain an injury, too. With all of this, it’s better to have more depth in goal than not, and Rask is a fantastic option to help with that.

Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Having a goaltending trio of Rask, Linus Ullmark, and Jeremy Swayman is something teams around the league will envy — especially when they each play to the best of their abilities. This also opens the door for the Bruins to explore options of who should be their No. 1 starter. It’s apparent that goaltenders inevitably have moments where they cool off, so the Bruins will have multiple choices now for when that happens.

Swayman May Be Heading to AHL

Although the Bruins will have three goalies who can handle NHL competition, one may be impacted negatively by this signing. Because Swayman is still under his entry-level contract, he does not have to go through waivers to be sent down to AHL Providence. If Boston wants to hold only two goaltenders on their NHL roster, the 23-year-old will likely be heading to Providence because of this.

Related: 4 Extension Candidates for Bruins This Offseason

In terms of his overall play this season, Swayman deserves to stay at the NHL level, though. In 16 games, he sports an 8-6-2 record, but also has a solid 2.26 goals-against average (GAA) and .918 save percentage. Although he hasn’t been as dominant as he was last season, this kind of play makes him solid enough to be at least a backup at the NHL level. Yet, unless the team is comfortable running with three goaltenders, we are likely going to see the rookie get some reps in with Providence again.

A Nice Win For the Bruins

Although Rask has always been heavily criticized by Bruins fans, it’s hard not to view him coming back as a win for the team. This is especially the case if he ends up signing a cheap contract with Boston once his deal is finalized. That does seem probable, too, as he openly stated he’d do just that during the offseason. Yet, when looking at the veteran’s resume with the team, it’s hard not to feel excited about his return.

Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 560 career games with the Bruins, Rask has a 306-163-66 record, 2.27 GAA, and a .921 save percentage. With that, he is the team’s all-time winningest goaltender and will have the chance to build on his spectacular numbers. He also didn’t show too many signs of slowing down last season, either, as he had a 15-5-2 record and 2.28 GAA. Although the team’s goaltending this season hasn’t been horrible, it still has had moments of inconsistency. The Bruins are hoping that the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner can help provide more stability, and he ultimately should. At a minimum, they are getting another solid option in the net who should be able to steal them some games. How can one actually complain about that?

Can He Play Center, Though?

Rask returning is excellent for the team. If the veteran goalie replicates the form he has had throughout his career, it’s a big step in the right direction for the Bruins. Yet, by bringing back another one of their longtime players, it feels as though that this should only be the beginning of the moves they make. From here, they should prioritize making more upgrades to their roster, but especially for the second-line center position.

For the inevitable Rask signing to make a significant difference for the Bruins’ chances of a long playoff run, this feels like a real necessity. If the Bruins keep their roster as is, this addition is still a good one, but may not be enough to help them compete with Atlantic Division rivals like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Toronto Maple Leafs in a playoff series. This should spark the Bruins to lean towards being big spenders at the deadline this campaign. If they get their coveted 2C, it will only make things better for Boston.

Although it felt inevitable that Rask would end up returning to the Bruins, it’s nice to see it finally coming to fruition. It will be interesting to see what the Bruins do with their trio of goaltenders, but at the end of the day, it’s fair to say that they only have gotten stronger in that area.