With the news that the Boston Bruins are signing Tuukka Rask to a one-year, $1 million contract, the B’s didn’t waste much time clearing up their crowded goaltending situation. Rask will immediately join the team and will start by serving as the backup for Linus Ullmark in Wednesday night’s game vs. the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden, the third straight start for the Swedish netminder signed in the offseason.
Rookie Jeremy Swayman, who actually has the slightly better numbers with an 8-6-2 record, 2.26 goals against average and .918 save percentage, will be headed to Providence to serve as the No. 1 goaltender for the Providence Bruins. Predictably, the 23-year-old goaltender wasn’t exactly excited about the news when his general manager broke it to on Wednesday afternoon, but there weren’t really any alternatives with Ullmark holding an ironclad no-movement clause for the next few seasons on his four-year, $20 million contract.
“He’ll be in practice [on Wednesday] and he’ll be backing up tomorrow night [against the Canadiens]. Then we’ll make a decision from there. I had a conversation with Jeremy this afternoon and he’ll be reporting to Providence,” said Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “He’s actually not eligible for the taxi squad, but if we have an injury or COVID of some sort then certainly Jeremy would have an opportunity and we’d expect that he would play. It’s part of the process having the depth required with all that we’re facing.
“[He was] disappointed…not overly surprised based on how it was tracking for Tuukka’s health and his potential availability. Jeremy took in stride as a professional and he’s extremely motivated to be a top-flight goaltender, which we believe him to be. He knows that with the commitment that we’ve made to him in trading a good, young goaltender in Daniel Vladar in allowing him to play opening night. He knows that he’s a big part of our current team as well as moving forward. Most importantly he’s got a hell of a long career in front of him as a Boston Bruin.”
Who knows? It could be that Swayman will factor into the mix along with Ullmark and Rask amidst an extremely busy second half of the season with Rask coming back from summer hip surgery. But it sure feels like the Boston Bruins are going to be riding with Rask and Ullmark unless something unforeseen happens this year.
The Bruins are currently 12th in the NHL with a .917 save percentage this season and seventh in the league with a 2.59 goals against average, so goaltending clearly isn’t the biggest issue facing the B’s currently. But Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy outlined the B’s thinking last week while it’s pretty clear the lack of Stanley Cup playoff experience for both Ullmark and Swayman had to be a part of the equation as well.
“We’re top-10 (in some goalie stats). We want to be top five,” said Cassidy. “We want to be one of the elite teams and we’re trending towards that. That’s a good thing and Tuukka, we assume, could only help with that.”
That part is definitely true and with a price tag of just $1 million on the salary cap it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, though it might be a tough sell to get a talented, young goalie like Swayman to buy into that right now.