Revisiting the Bruins’ Trade for Tuukka Rask

Late in the 2005-06 season, former Boston Bruins president Harry Sinden decided to part ways with then general manager (GM) Mike O’Connell. The Bruins were well on their way to a last-place finish in the then Northeast Division and needed a shake-up. After firing O’Connell, Sinden handed the reigns for the rest of the season and the 2006 Entry Draft to assistant GM Jeff Gorton.

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Gorton was in charge of getting the Black and Gold’s rebuild underway. Before the draft, Gorton made a flurry of trades and the biggest name sent out of Boston was a defenseman, Nick Boynton, to the Arizona Coyotes. It was not the trade with the Coyotes that worked out well for Boston, but it was a deal with a division rival that turned the franchise’s fortune.

Gorton Makes 2 Trades With Toronto

On June 15, the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs made a minor deal, but it was another deal made nine days later that set the Bruins up for the future. Gorton sent 25-year-old goalie Andrew Raycroft to Toronto for the rights to a young goaltender named Tuukka Rask.

Andrew Raycroft Bruins
Andrew Raycroft with the Boston Bruins (Photo: Jouko Laru)

Rask was selected 21st overall in the 2005 Draft by the Maple Leafs, while Raycroft was coming off of his fifth season in Boston, but sported a sub .500 record with an 8-19-2 record with a 3.77 goals-against average (GAA) and just a .879 save percentage (SV%). Going forward, he was not seen as the guy in Boston, so Gorton, who was only interim GM for a short amount of time, but his move to acquire Rask turned out to be franchise-altering.

Rask’s Career in Boston

Following the trade, Rask spent two seasons with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL). In those two campaigns in the AHL, he went 60-33-6 and had his best season in his second year in 2008-09 when he had a 2.50 GAA and a .920 SV%. That would be his last season in the minors before he made his home permanent in Boston.

Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Rask played 45 games in 2009-10, starting 39 of them, and posting a 22-12-5 record with a career-low 1.97 GAA and a .931 SV%. Working that season with Tim Thomas, Rask got the nod in the playoffs and led the Bruins to a first-round upset of the third-seeded Buffalo Sabres. In the second round, Boston built a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers, only to lose the final four games and the series. Not a part of history that anyone wants to be a part of.

The following season was a big rebound for the Bruins, who ended up winning the 2011 Stanley Cup in seven games over the Vancouver Canucks. Thomas returned in net for the championship run and Rask was relegated to backup duty, but shortly after, Rask took over between the pipes and had nearly a decade of success in Boston.

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Rask would take over in 2012-13 and had a run that a lot of goalies wish they could have. Rask solidified the crease for former Bruins coaches Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy. During his next nine seasons, Rask would lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012-13 and 2108-19. In 2012-13, the Bruins would lose in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks, but the biggest defeat happened in the 2019 Final. The Bruins lost Game 7 at home to the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, and it could be seen as the biggest disappointing playoff run ending for their core group.

In the Toronto playoff bubble, Rask’s career started a downward spiral in the summer of 2020. He played in four games, winning just one game, before he left in the middle of a first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes to go home for a family emergency. Jaroslav Halak took over and finished the Hurricanes series, before the Bruins were eliminated in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Jaroslav Halak Boston Bruins
Jaroslav Halak formed a good goaltending duo with Rask in Boston. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The following season of 2020-21 was a 56-game season with limited travel because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. In 24 games, he went 15-5-2 with a 2.28 GAA and a .913 SV% but suffered a hip injury that cut down his play in the regular season, but he was rested enough for a playoff run. He won six of the 11 postseason games he played in with a 2.36 GAA and a .919 SV%, but in the final three games against the New York Islanders that Boston lost, it was apparent that Rask was not healthy.

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Following the elimination at the hands of the Islanders, Rask announced that he was having hip surgery and it would keep him out until January or February in 2022. Rask ended up signing a contract and returning in Jan. 2022, but it did not go as well as Rask or the Bruins would have liked. He would play in four games, splitting his four outings with a whopping 4.28 GAA and a career-low .844 SV%. In early February he retired, ending his 15-year run wearing the Spoked-B.

Rask’s Legacy in Boston

Rask’s legacy in Boston is one where he retired as one of the best goalies in franchise history. He is first in regular-season games played with 564 and 308 wins. He ranks second with a 2.28 GAA and .921 SV% and shutouts with 52. Tiny Thompson is the franchise leader in shutouts with 74. In the postseason, he went 57-46 with a 2.22 GAA and a .925 SV% with seven shutouts.

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

Rask won the Vezina Trophy in 2013-14 as the league’s top goalie. He went 36-15-6 with a 2.04 GAA and a .930 SV% with seven shutouts. In the 70-game shortened 219-20 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, Rask and Halak combined to win the Jennings Trophy, handed out to the goaltending duo that each played a minimum of 25 games in a season with the fewest goals allowed. They combined to allow just 174 goals in 70 games.

It will not be easy for any future goalies to top Rask’s career in Boston. He set the benchmark for goaltending and was one of the best, if not the best, to strap on the pads. His record and ranks in franchise history prove that.

Raycroft’s Career in Toronto

Raycroft’s stop with the Maple Leafs was not a long one. He spent one and a half seasons in Toronto, but posted career highs in 2006-07, his only full season there. He played in a career-high 72 games, going 37-25-9 with a .299 GAA and a .894 SV%. His 37 wins were a career-high, but it was not enough to get them to the playoffs as they finished ninth in the Eastern Conference and one point behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff berth.

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The next season was a struggle for Raycroft, which ended his time in Toronto. Following the 2007-08 campaign where he went 2-9-5 with a 3.92 GAA and also a .876 SV%, he was placed on waivers in June of 2008 after the Maple Leafs bought out the remaining terms of his contract and he signed with the Colorado Avalanche. 

Who Won the Trade?

It’s pretty clear that the Bruins won a trade that was made by an interim GM who was just a placeholder between O’Connell and Peter Chiarelli. Gorton’s move gave Boston stability in net for just over a decade, despite the tough ending to Rask’s career. 

Jeff Gorton
Former Bruins assistant GM Jeff Gorton at the NHL Entry Draft as GM of the New York Rangers in 2016.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Rask was everything the Bruins hoped he would be. Two trips to the Stanley Cup Final, with neither ending being his fault. A complete defensive breakdown in the late stages of the third period by his defense in Game 6 against the Blackhawks ended the series as Boston was looking to force a Game 7, then another round of breakdowns in front of him in Game 7 against the Blues in 2019 felled the Black and Gold. Overall, it ended up being a trade that turned the fortunes of the Bruins’ future by adding a future Hall of Famer.