BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s absolutely been a different feel through the first few days of Boston Bruins training camp with longtime regulars like David Krejci and Tuukka Rask not among those on the ice. Krejci, of course, is tearing it up for Olomouc in the Czech League in Extraliga action and Rask is rehabbing from summer hip surgery while mulling his future with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman set to share goaltending duties.
It’s really a completely different look from the veteran due of Rask and Jaroslav Halak that the Boston Bruins have employed for the last few seasons, and a radical change from a nearly 15-year run that Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask had as the No. 1 guys in Boston.
Clearly the 22-year-old Swayman is looking to show that last season’s rookie campaign wasn’t a fluke when he finished 7-3-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and a .945 save percentage after similarly dominating the AHL in his first pro campaign. Swayman will need to maintain his performance as the league gets familiar with his tendencies and avoid the sophomore slump that roughed up Carter Hart in Philadelphia last season.
The 28-year-old Ullmark was 9-6-3 with a 2.63 goals against average and a .917 save percentage for the Sabres, and, like most ex-Sabres, seemed very happy with his new surroundings. The Swedish netminder didn’t even flinch when asked if Rask’s “in limbo” status right now would be like a cloud hanging over Ullmark and Swayman.
“I stay in the present. I stay in the moment. That is something for the future,” said Ullmark. “It’s nothing that I focus on right now. You’re asking the question, but [the present] is what my priority is right now.”
It’s all kind of vague with Rask, at this point. It feels like the Finnish goaltender is making use of the Warrior Ice facilities and the Boston Bruins medical staff during his rehab, but Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was quite clear that unsigned Rask won’t be going on the ice for any kind of activities.
“He’s come in early. I’m assuming he’s allowed to get some treatment and he has,” said Cassidy. “I don’t know when that will end in our building, but he has been in here earlier from time to time. But not on the ice. I don’t know when that would start or if it would be here or not.
“We’ve talked to both of our goalies about our entire goaltending situation and where Tuukka is at. I can only go by what Tuukka has told to me and everybody else, and that’s that he would like to stay and return to Boston. We understand that and I think the goalies understand that. It’s way too early to say it’s a definite or that it’s not happening. Can it get sticky? It could but if it does get sticky then we need to do right by the guys that are signed here. Tuukka is a good pro and a good person. I don’t think he’s trying to create any issues. He’s just trying to get healthy.”
At the end of the day, it’s a difficult situation to forecast. The Boston Bruins don’t have the cap space for Rask right now with their full roster of players, and the only way they’d be able to accommodate a three goalie rotation at the NHL level is if either Swayman or Ullmark ends up A) struggling mightily or B) injured. And neither one of those portends good things for the Black and Gold prior to Rask being potentially ready to return around the holidays.
The Boston Bruins are going out of their way right now to contend that things won’t be awkward if the 34-year-old Rask were to return to the team midway through the season, but it’s difficult to see how it won’t get weird if the B’s longtime goalie wants to come back a few months from now.