By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask‘s decision to leave the Toronto bubble to attend to a personal matter may accelerate his exit from the organization, as the 33-year-old is apparently the subject of talks initiated by B’s general manager Don Sweeney.
The report comes courtesy of TSN’s Frank Seravalli, who added Rask to his Trade Bait Board ahead of next week’s 2020 NHL Draft and the start of free agency, and with ‘multiple sources’ informing him of Sweeney’s talks involving the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy runner-up.
Many were wondering if there would be fallout from Rask’s decision to leave the bubble for family reasons, a decision that was certainly supported by teammates. But multiple sources indicate that Bruins GM Don Sweeney has initiated conversations with teams about Rask’s market value over the last number of weeks.
So, there’s that.
For what it’s worth, Sweeney repeatedly said that Rask had the support of the organization for making his decision both during the playoffs and after the postseason. He mentioned that he didn’t anticipate any future issues, that family is family and emergencies happen, and that Rask was going to be with the team when things got underway in 2020-21. Team president Cam Neely said something similar during his year-end press conference, too.
“Everybody has issues away from their job and Tuukka is no different than most of us,” Neely said last month. “So it’s just a matter of how he feels like he’s got to handle it and we are going to have to react accordingly. Tuukka has been a fantastic goaltender for us for a number of years. He’s still got a lot of good goaltending left in him. It’s just unfortunate the timing of it, but there’s not much we could have done about that.”
This would, at least based on their own words, be a definite course-change on the part of the Bruins. Even after a two-round postseason run that revealed that no, excellent 1B netminder Jaroslav Halak probably isn’t fit to be the team’s full-time starter on the way to a Stanley Cup, as the 35-year-old posted a 4-4 record and .907 save percentage as the team’s starter.
And though it may be mere due diligence on the part of the B’s versus actually looking to trade Rask out of town as soon as possible, it is worth noting that if there was ever a time to move on from No. 40, it’s certainly this offseason.
Entering the final year of a $7 million per year contract, Rask may be nearing the end of his Boston run. He’s talked about potentially retiring from hockey, and though he nearly carried the Bruins to Cups in 2013 and 2019, this situation that took him out of the bubble may be tough to bounce back from in the court of public opinion. Fair or unfair, right or wrong, it’s just the way it is, and Rask was already the most polarizing athlete in town before that happened.
And this offseason is chock full of quality netminders to be had through the trade market or free agency.
On the free agent front, there’s Cup-winning netminders like Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford, as well as options such as Jakob Markstrom, Anton Khudobin, Craig Anderson, and Matt Murray (restricted free agent). Robin Lehner is also set to hit the open market, though there’s been talk of a long-term deal with the Golden Knights in place. If and when that’s signed, that puts Marc-Andre Fleury on the trade market that already features Murray, the Coyotes’ Darcy Kuemper, Carolina’s Petr Mrazek, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, and the Blue Jackets’ Joonas Korpisalo.
There’s just a ton of potential options in net.
So, really, the Bruins would be fools not to see if there’s someone out there willing to buy big on the final year of Rask’s contract. Especially if they are indeed being brutally honest about their future, and if they’re going to big players in the free market (Taylor Hall) or trade market and need to free up some additional cash to be just that.
Still, Rask isn’t the kind of guy to move to simply move, and the Bruins know that. It’s why they’re trying using this calm before the storm of a truncated offseason to gauge the trade market for Rask’s market value in the first place.
A career-long Bruin, Rask posted a 26-8-6 record with five shutouts and a .929 save percentage (second-best in the NHL) this past season, and has a 291-158-64 record and .922 save percentage in 536 career games since 2007.
Listen to Ty Anderson and Matt Dolloff talk Bruins on the latest Sports Hub Sidelines podcast: