By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It’s entirely possible that Tuukka Rask has played his last game as a member of the Boston Bruins.
In fact, ask some people and it’s exactly what they’ll tell you.
Entering the final year of his current contract, the 33-year-old Rask has been the subject of some trade talks initiated by Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, according to TSN. The Athletic’s Craig Custance reported something similar, and there’s been talk of the Bruins asking Rask for his list of teams on his no-trade. (It’s since been reported that Rask’s trade protection expires later this week, so asking for the list might be more of a kindness than anything else.)
But when it comes to his 2020-21, where will Rask land?
Let’s try to rank them top to bottom…
31. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning just won the Stanley Cup and Andrei Vasilevskiy is set to begin the first year of an eight-year, $76 million contract ($9.5 million cap hit) next season. They do not need Tuukka Rask. Nor can they afford Tuukka Rask with restricted free agents Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli in need of new deals.
30. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens still have Carey Price, who is the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL, and added the Blues’ Jake Allen to back him up next year. It’s also worth noting that the Bruins and Canadiens have not made a trade with one another since Feb. 2001.
29. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights just finalized a five-year, $25 million extension with deadline pickup Robin Lehner, and are trying to trade Marc-Andre Fleury. The last thing they’re trying to do is add another starting goaltender to the mix.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs
27. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are led by 2020 Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck and they just re-signed their backup.
26. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers finally found their goalie of the future, as the 22-year-old Carter Hart went 24-13-3 with a .914 this past season. The Flyers also re-signed veteran backup Brian Elliott to a one-year deal over the weekend, so there’s not an opening in Philly.
25. Anaheim Ducks
The Bruins and Ducks have made back-to-back trades, sure, but there’s no need for Rask when you have John Gibson.
24. St. Louis Blues
The Blues have just over $5 million in cap space heading into next season, and already traded Jake Allen to the Canadiens to clear some cap space to sign anything-but-a-goalie. And goaltender Jordan Binnington, who played like complete butt in the restart, is still just a year and change removed from a Stanley Cup.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are giving the keys to Tristan Jarry, which is why two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray is on the block. They don’t put Murray on the block and also have an interest in acquiring the 33-year-old Rask. Also: Just a hunch, but don’t think the Bruins are ever going to be in the business of dealing with the Penguins. So long as Cam Neely is around, anyway.
22. Washington Capitals
It feels like the Capitals are ready to move on from Braden Holtby and let 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov take over in net. Similar to the Pens and Murray, it wouldn’t make much sense to move on from a franchise centerpiece to add Rask.
21. Dallas Stars
The Stars are coming off an appearance in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, and have informed pending free agent (and ex-Bruin backup) Anton Khudobin that they want to bring him back. Should Khudobin price himself out of a return to Dallas, it’s hard to imagine that their next thought would be, “Hm, you know what’d make sense? The $7 million Rask.” The Stars also have Ben Bishop on their roster, so consider that another roadblock in sending Rask to Dallas.
20. Florida Panthers
The Panthers have an unhealthy obsession with adding former Bruins, but they’re paying Sergei Bobrovsky $10 million per season for the next six seasons. They are in no position to add a $7 million goaltender, even if it’s for just one season.
19. Ottawa Senators
The Senators have no need for Tuukka Rask. I mean, they definitely do. But it doesn’t make sense for either party. Their status as an in-division team also hurts the chances of such a trade connection happening.
18. Detroit Red Wings
Another in-division team, and the Red Wings really don’t have much that’d be of interest to the Bruins.
17. New York Rangers
The Rangers have over $23 million in projected cap space, but they also have just 12 skaters signed for next season, and they just bought out the final year of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract because they’re ready to ride with the youth movement in net. (The Rangers, by the way, will have a staggering $12-plus million in dead money on their books next year.)
16. Buffalo Sabres
I think that Rask would make a ton of sense for the Sabres. They’d get a real starting goaltender for the first time since Ryan Miller’s run of being a legitimate No. 1 goaltender. (Remember 2010? What a weird time.) But the Bruins would want one player and one player only: Jack Eichel. It’d make no sense to trade for Rask while ditching Eichel, nor would it make sense for the Sabres to trade a franchise center for a goalie entering his mid-30s and with just one year left on his contract. But, again, if the Sabres were looking for true legitimacy, a move for Rask (or any actual starting goalie) is one hell of a start.
15. Nashville Predators
The Preds have over $8 million in cap space, but they’ve already committed $6.5 million to the goaltending position in 2020-21 between Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Having a potential Rinne-Rask tandem would drive Finland wild, but it’s hard to imagine how it’d be something of serious interest to Nashville.
14. Los Angeles Kings
A Jonathan Quick-Tuukka Rask tandem would cost the Kings nearly $13 million. That alone makes it feel unlikely. That said, it certainly feels like Rask would be an upgrade over Quick at this point in his career (Quick has just 32 wins in his last 88 games, and his .896 save percentage over that sample is the worst among any goaltender with at least 80 games played since 2018.)
13. New York Islanders
After watching Robin Lehner and Semyon Varlamov thrive behind their defense-first system, perhaps the Islanders don’t think that a goaltender needs to make $7 million to have success in their crease. The Islanders also, finally have highly-touted goaltending prospect Ilya Sorokin signed and with the franchise, so it’s almost impossible to imagine them log-jamming him.
12. Minnesota Wild
I mean, whatever. I don’t want to waste limitless internet ink on the Minnesota Wild. (Watch, this is where he gets traded.)
11. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks shouldn’t be nearly as bad as they have the last two seasons. Goaltending (Martin Jones) has a ton to do with that. But the Sharks appear set on trying to fix that with Devan Dubnyk, one of the only netminders who has been as bad as Jones in recent seasons. Just straight-up wasting their high-priced core. Terrible. Awful. San Jose.
10. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks want to come to terms on a long-term deal with Jakob Markstrom. But if that doesn’t happen, does a Rask-to-Vancouver move make sense? The Canucks are run by former Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning, and there has been talk of the Bruins being interested in some of the Canucks’ forwards (such as Jake Virtanen). Ironically enough, the Canucks’ ability to acquire someone like Rask may come down to the Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade talks (which the Bruins are involved in), and what the Canucks ditch financially to get OEL in Vancouver.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets
The rumor mill has suggested that the Blue Jackets are willing to move both their goaltenders. That tells you that they’d love to make an upgrade there. Given their ultra-talented defense corps, and their underrated forward group, and the alway-limited window that John Tortorella teams seem to have, that makes sense. And it makes Rask a definite fit. Their general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, is a Finn. I’m admittedly speaking out of my butt here, but perhaps that makes him more understanding of Rask’s seemingly aloof approach. (I’ve always felt that people simply don’t get when Rask is trying to be funny.)
But, the Jackets would definitely have pieces of interest to the Bruins.
8. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks constantly feel like one of these one step in, one step out franchises. It’s understandable. You’re never going to truly rebuild when you remain committed to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith. The Hawks have also helped these guys out with some younger pieces such as Alex DeBrincat, Dom Kubalik, and Kirby Dach.
But Corey Crawford, the man who backstopped the Hawks to Cups in 2013 and 2015, is a pending free agent. And should he cash in elsewhere, Chicago, with over $11 million in cap space, may find it in their best interest to call Boston to check in on the availability of Rask. The 33-year-old Rask would represent a one-year extension of the Blackhawks’ window (this is a theme, you’ll notice), and could at the very worst be flipped at the deadline like Lehner was this past deadline.
7. New Jersey Devils
New Jersey goaltenders have an .898 save percentage over the last two seasons. It’s the fourth-worst in hockey. The Devils also have over $26 million in projected cap space. The third-most in hockey. That alone would indicate that they could use someone like Rask. Mackenzie Blackwood (22-14-8, .915 save percentage) is a restricted free agent and Cory Schneider ($6 million cap hit and an injured reserve inevitability) are the Devils’ goaltenders entering next season. Again, they could use Rask.
6. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are a high-end goaltender away from being true, legitimate-as-hell Stanley Cup contenders. The Hurricanes also have the defensemen that the Bruins would likely covet in a trade, especially with Torey Krug likely to leave as a free agent and with (the still-unsigned) Zdeno Chara turning 44 years old next March. But these teams have met in the postseason in back-to-back seasons, and I’m not sure that the Bruins would want to chance a third year in a row coming with Rask in the opposition’s crease. That said, there’s definitely the pieces on both sides to make a deal work if the Bruins are looking to simple maximize their return on a goaltender and aren’t worried about where he goes for a season.
5. Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are probably higher than you expect on this list. But let me explain why this could make sense: Oliver Ekman-Larsson wants to come to Boston (or Vancouver). But the 29-year-old Coyote captain is making $8.25 million for the next seven years. That’s a lot of cake to absorb without sending a contract the other way. So, why not Rask’s $7 million? In fact, let’s make this even crazier: Trade the picks and prospects necessary to acquire OEL, but make it spicy and add Rask to the mix with the caveat that the Coyotes throw in Darcy Kuemper. This doesn’t leave the Bruins hanging when it comes to having a reputable goaltending tandem in 2020-21 (Kuemper had a .928 this past season), and it helps alleviate some of the money concerns that come with adding Ekman-Larsson and his $8.25 million to the books.
Juuuuust spit-ballin’ about a big ol’ hockey trade here. Been a while since we had one of those.
4. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have two MVPs up front, but with apologies to Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, they will never be a true Cup contender until they make a serious upgrade in net. I’m talking serious. The Oilers also have the positions of need(left-side defense, middle-six forwards) for the Bruins in a potential Rask deal. Getting a one-year taste of Rask — and with Rask’s trade protection set to expire next week — may be exactly what the Oilers want to try with some expensive future contracts due.
Edmonton front office head Ken Holland has also talked about his desire to stick with a 50-50 split in net next season with Koskinen (Smith is a free agent), and we’ve seen how that’s worked out for Rask since Jaro Halak came to town.
3. Calgary Flames
Man, what the Flames would give for even a lick of stability in net. Since 2015, the Flames have had five different netminders start at least four postseason games for them. This postseason, they were led by Cam Talbot’s 10 appearances, and his 5-4 record and .924 save percentage. That lack of stability has led to just two series victories, and that includes the qualifying round victory this summer, and with Calgary constantly under the microscope for their lack of postseason success. And now, Talbot is a free agent, and David Rittich is signed for just one more season. Rask is a clear-as-day upgrade over these guys, and the Flames have over $16 million in cap space, too. If the Flames want to give this core one more real run before blowing things up, doing it with Rask in a contract year may actually give them a fighting chance to right the ship.
2. Boston Bruins
Let’s just boil this one down to a simple question: Can the Bruins do better than Rask? Because if they can’t — or if they’re not damn sure that they can — they shouldn’t even think about potentially closing their Cup window with a lesser option.
Now, that’s not to say that Rask is perfect. He’s not. The fact that he was unable to compete in the Toronto bubble has definitely a sour taste in a few mouths. You also wonder if we’ve hit the point of no return when it comes to Rask, too. Like, is there any way to come back from this? It’s a legitimate question. Rask’s teammates have always had his back, and they did this time as well. But the fans? Management? The coaching staff? Again, it’s a legitimate question.
There’s also no better time to move on from Rask than right now. He’s 33, he’s entering the final year of his deal, and the Bruins are nearing an undeniable crossroads as an organization. He may not factor into their long-term plans. And the goaltending market is teeming with possible. The B’s just need to make sure they find the perfect one if they do move Rask.
Factor in that he was a Vezina finalist, and the on-ice performance, and that’s no easy feat. Especially when you got a taste of what a Rask-less postseason looked like in the hands of the next-in-command this past summer.
1. Colorado Avalanche
With three straight playoff appearances to their name, and after back-to-back second-round exits, the Avalanche are undoubtedly in “all-in” territory.
This is the sweet spot for them, too. While Nate MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen remain under contract for the long-term future, 2020-21 will be the final year of Gabriel Landeskog’s contract. The Avs need to hammer out new deals for a 2020 restricted free agent class that includes forwards Valeri Nichushkin, Tyson Jost, and Andre Burakovsky, and defensemen Ryan Graves and Nikita Zadorov, and next year is headlined by restricted free agent Cale Makar. The Avalanche are going to see a good chunk of their over $22 million in cap space slowly but surely fall out of frame.
But in the now? The Avalanche can spend.
And though the Avs have a perfectly fine duo in net with Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, acquiring Rask for what may be their final consequence-free season from a cap standpoint may be better than anything Grubauer and Francouz can deliver.