With a great deal of free agent movement for the Boston Bruins on the first day of NHL free agency, a trade involving a very good B’s goaltending prospect might have been the thing to most go under the radar for the Black and Gold. The Bruins shipped young goaltending prospect Daniel Vladar to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 third round pick and will now hand full goaltending duties over to Linus Ullmark, on a new four-year, $20 million contract, and Jeremy Swayman to begin the 2021-22 regular season.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Ullmark posted a 9-6-3 record in 20 games for the Buffalo Sabres last season with a .917 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average, and Swayman, of course, had an epic start to his NHL career with a 7-3-0 record along with a 1.50 goals against average and .945 save percentage in his first 10 NHL appearances.
The Boston Bruins also continue to leave the door open for Tuukka Rask to potentially return late next season as they have up until the trade deadline to sign the 35-year-old goalie to a contract while he’s rehabbing from hip surgery.
So that all left little room for Vladar in next season’s plans after posting a 2-2-1 record along with a 3.40 goals against average and .886 save percentage, with his numbers really dragged down when he was left in a blowout loss to the Washington Capitals just prior to the NHL trade deadline. Sweeney said the trade was about getting value back for the 23-year-old goaltender, replacing the third round pick they sent to Ottawa in the Mike Reilly trade last season and giving Vladar a legit chance for an NHL opportunity in the Flames organization.
“We just think where we were currently sitting with two young goaltenders [in Vladar and Swayman], we needed to be prepared and allow Tuukka [Rask] all the time he needs to get healthy. He just had surgery, spoke to him this morning, [and he’s] doing very well. [We] just have to go through the process and go from there,” said Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “I think we’ve always left the door open for Tuukka to return, and I think it just allows Jeremy [Swayman] to continue to progress at a natural rate, but also give him the opportunity to be at the NHL level.
“As you can see, we gave Daniel [Vladar] an opportunity to go to Calgary and establish some stuff there. They were excited to have him. It was a little bit of a musical chairs shuffle, but for all the right reasons we just felt we’ve had very strong goaltending. We want to continue to have that, and it was a unique opportunity to explore having Linus join our group and we’re excited about that.”
While the Bruins say they have “left the door open for Tuukka to return”, they also currently have just slightly north of $885,000 in salary cap space after their free agency spending spree. So it doesn’t feel like the money is there for Rask if/when he’s healthy enough to play again. The Bruins also used a third round pick to select Vladar way back in the 2015 NHL Draft, so now they recoup that pick that they initially used to select the 6-foot-5 project Czech goaltender.
As much as it speaks to the Black and Gold doing right by Vladar, it also pretty clearly speaks to the high confidence level that the Bruins have in their future with the 22-year-old Swayman.