The Boston Bruins have added another player to their goalie pool by signing the unrestricted free agent Linus Ullmark to a four-year deal worth $20 million. His contract carries an Annual Average Salary of $5 million, a significant increase from the $2.26 million deal he signed with the Buffalo Sabres in 2020-21.
Ullmark carried a depleted Sabres club until an injury in April cut his season short. His record through 20 games was 9-6-3, with the team winning just another six games without their star netminder between the pipes. Even in a small sample of what could have been, Ullmark posted a 2.63 goals-against average (GAA) and .917 save percentage (save%).
From Number 163 to Number 1
The Buffalo Sabres selected the native of Lugnvik, Sweden, with the 163rd pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He remained in Sweden for several seasons playing for Modo Hockey of the Swedish Hockey League before signing his entry-level deal in 2014.
Related: 2021 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker
Ullmark didn’t come to North America until 2015-16, spending a brief 28 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Rochester Americans. He earned an emergency call-up job that season with Buffalo, producing an 8-10-2 record in 20 games. The club’s goalie of the future had a 2.60 GAA and a .913 save% in his debut campaign.
Ullmark played the bulk of the next two seasons in the AHL (with Rochester) while Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson handled the goaltending duties in Buffalo. When both players departed after the 2017-18 season, Ullmark finally had his chance to be a 1A/1B tandem with Carter Hutton, a new acquisition in the offseason. That campaign was rough on Ullmark as he adjusted to the workload (37 games), seeing only a slight increase in GAA and a decrease in save%.
Since landing a chunk of the starting duties with the Sabres two years ago, Ullmark’s numbers have stayed consistent with a respectable 0.916 save% and 2.66 GAA in 54 games. His record in those contests was 26-20-6.
Free Agency Steal
There were many high-profile free agent goalies available this year, while Ullmark laid low under the radar. Several media sources believed he would be a steal no matter where he signed. The 27-year-old has played only 117 games but has a skillset to earn and keep a starting job on any club in the league. This move is a great pick-up for Boston since veteran Tuuka Rask remains unsigned and is coming off a surgical procedure expected to keep him out of action until January 2022. Ullmark will mostly likely split duties with rookie Jeremy Swayman, who filled in admirably for the club in 2020-21.
Boston acquired a goalie who proved that he could carry a team on a nightly basis. Some goalies would buckle under that kind of pressure, but Ullmark just continued to do what he does best: stop pucks and keep his teammates in close games with ease and confidence.
Ryan Gagne is one of the newest members of The Hockey Writers, covering the New York Islanders. He grew up in a small town in northern New Hampshire, where he idolized the Boston Bruins. Before moving to Canada in 2008, he was the equipment manager for his high school varsity hockey team and a sports journalist for the local newspapers. Ryan has been active in the hockey community, whether coaching, officiating, instructing, or playing. He is the ultimate rink rat with 19 years of experience making ice and driving the Zamboni. An avid fantasy sports player, Ryan created a blog, Keeping the Stats, where he dissects his teams and brags about his 2020 fantasy football championship. Outside of hockey, his life revolves around the New York Yankees, much to his wife’s chagrin.