The Boston Bruins are officially without any signed, veteran goaltending presence to begin next season with the news Jaroslav Halak’s time in Boston has come to a close.
The 36-year-old netminder and the Boston Bruins have agreed to part ways after three seasons, and Halak will hit the free agent market on July 28, per his agent Allan Walsh. Walsh told Boston Hockey Now that the expectation is there will be solid interest in the proven NHL goaltender, and that Halak is looking for a similar role to the one he had in Boston with Tuukka Rask.
“Jaro will assess each teams interest when free agency opens but generally sees his ideal role as a partner in a tandem,” said Walsh of Halak, who was 9-6-4 with a 2.54 GAA and a .905 save percentage last season in Boston.
Halak finished with a strong 49-23-14 record, 2.40 GAA and .918 save percentage with the Bruins while playing more than originally anticipated in a three-season partnership with Tuukka Rask that was much closer to 50-50 than the normal starter/backup tandem. Halak shared the Jennings Trophy with Rask in 2019-20 and would have averaged close to 40 games per season if the last two NHL seasons weren’t interrupted due to COVID circumstances.
Halak more than lived up to expectations during his time in Boston and should enjoy no shortage of interest as an experienced, veteran puckstopper still playing at a high level.
Rask, of course, is set to undergo significant hip surgery and isn’t expected to be ready to play games until January of the 2021-22 NHL season. Rask is currently unsigned while waiting to see how he comes out of surgery physically, but he has maintained he doesn’t want to play anywhere else in the NHL aside from Boston.
Rask’s injury situation and Halak’s exit leaves the Boston Bruins with Jeremy Swayman and Daniel Vladar as their only two goaltending options to start next season unless they pursue a veteran goaltender when NHL free agency opens. It’s a situation that Don Sweeney spoke pretty frankly about it when discussing the state of the Boston Bruins last month.
“Time is going to tell whether or not one of [young B’s goalies] is going to be a number one goaltender in the National Hockey League. I think we’re very comfortable with the depth in the organization having those two young players. We’re in the early stages of learning if Tuukka has decided to have surgery, and we have to make a decision,” said Sweeney a month ago when speaking to the media following the end of their playoff series vs. the Islanders. “[Are] we going to go to market and bring in a player that we feel is ahead of those two players or certainly from an experience standpoint, or we do roll the dice a little bit, allow those guys to see if they can handle the workload, which is a tall task? Make no mistake about it, it’s a tall task.
“Small sample size for Jeremy, he played extremely well. Daniel played well in his starts. We have a very crucial decision to make and chart a course for certainly the first part of the season as to when Tuukka will be ready. We have to forecast that accurately if Tuukka does decide to come back and play, and how he fits in.”
It seemed pretty apparent Halak’s days with the Boston Bruins were numbered when the 22-year-old Swayman replaced him as Rask’s backup for this spring’s playoff run. Now the Bruins are looking at some very inexperienced tenders as their options to start next year and Halak will be looking for a new NHL address next season.