After an offseason full of NHL trade rumors surrounding goalie Tuukka Rask are the Boston Bruins about to offer Rask and Jaro Halak new contracts?
Are the Bruins also primed to be major players on the NHL Trade market ahead of the April 12 NHL Trade deadline?
The big story coming into the Bruins’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals Wednesday night that began a two-game set at TD Garden and the battle for first place in the East Division was the return of longtime Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for the first time since he signed with the Caps in December. Despite no fans being there for Big Zee’s return, the Bruins nailed it with their first period tribute to the player that was pivotal in bringing the Boston Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 39 years back in 2011.
During the old-school, physical game Chara and that entire 2011 Stanley Cup roster had to be proud of, some more big Boston Bruins news developed. For a while here at BHN, we’ve been chronicling Bruins GM Don Sweeney’s Old Man and the Sea journey for a left-shot Top 4 NHL defenseman. During the second intermission, Wednesday night, NBC and TSN NHL Insider Bob McKenzie confirmed as much citing their carefully planned salary cap situation just over a month away from the NHL Trade Deadline.
“They’ve got major flexibility here and that was by design,” McKenzie said of the expected $14.4 million in accumulated cap space the Bruins are expected to have next month at the deadline. “They knew it was going to be an interesting year with taxi squads and COVID and everything else, but they absolutely really have the ability to add a prominent defenseman if they want to, and/or up front or maybe even both and I think Don Sweeney the General Manager there is wide open to any and all possibilities. So we’ll get a better handle on that closer to the trade deadline which is five weeks Monday.”
That wasn’t the biggest news though when it came to the Bruins roster and cap picture heading forward. McKenzie told host Kathryn Tappen that the Bruins are willing to and would like to negotiate extensions with their 2020 William Jennings goaltending duo of Rask and Halak. Rask, 33, and Halak, 35, are set to become unrestricted free agents this offseason and there’s been plenty of speculation about the future of Rask with the Bruins even after a season in which he finished as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the second time. Despite losing the game Wednesday, Rask was in Vezina form, giving his team a chance to win again with a 27-save performance and some big ones to get it to the extra frames. Apparently, the Boston Bruins still think Rask has plenty of these games left to give.
“But the interesting thing for me is they’ve got both goaltenders, Jaro Halak their backup goaltender, and of course Tuukka Rask their No. 1. …they’re both on expiring contracts,” McKenzie pointed out. “So could there be contract talks in season to get something done and I think the short answer to that is: Yes. I think the Bruins are not opposed to bringing back one or both of these guys and doing in-season contracts if they get the sense from their goaltenders that’s what they want to do.”
On more than one occasion, there’s been talk of Rask contemplating retirement when his current contract expires after this season, and McKenzie hinted at that potentially being a factor in what happens with Rask.
“Rask is really the key here,” McKenzie said. “How much longer does he want to play and I think the Bruins are waiting for some sort of indication on him on how he’d like to proceed but the Bruins by all means, are open to having one or both of these guys back. They have to do a little bit of a dance in terms of Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar, their younger goalies in the system. …is one of them ready to step up yet or how would those pieces of the puzzle fit, but all things considered, the veteran goaltender Rask and the veteran goaltender Halak may be getting contracts before the end of the season if that’s the way they want to go.”
An email Wednesday night to Rask’s agent Markus Lehto requesting comment on McKenzie’s report had not received a response as of 9:45 PM ET.