By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Perhaps Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s days in Boston aren’t numbered after all.
The center of trade rumors in recent days, and with word that it’s been Bruins general manager Don Sweeney who has initiated talks with other teams, Sweeney pushed back on that report during Monday’s pre-draft availability.
“As a matter of fact, our staff has communicated with Tuukka and, as I said before, he remains a big part of our roster planning going forward,” Sweeney said. ” I think by my knowledge, he was second in the Vezina balloting and we feel very, very comfortable with where our goaltending is at. And I think you’re going to need it. I don’t know what the schedule and what the season – I think there are a lot of things that are up in the air, but it could be a challenging environment from a season standpoint. Might make goaltending even more a big part of what you have to have going forward.”
And set to enter his sixth season as the Black and Gold’s general manager, Sweeney also opted not to comment on the report that said the Bruins asked for Rask’s team list on his no-trade clause, and that Rask’s trade protection expires this week.
“I don’t think it’s my responsibility to confirm what is in a player’s contract,” said Sweeney. “In player movement, player talks, I hope that everyone will respect the privacy of each and every one of those conversations. I do acknowledge it certainly helps your guys’ jobs, so I’m certainly not trying to make it any more challenging than it is. As a former player, I think everybody should understand why I try to respect the privacy of each and every one of those contractual situations.”
Sweeney’s intentions are still anyone’s guess.
It’s rare to see a general manager outright say, “Oh yeah, the reports are true and we are totally trading this guy.” It’s just not the smartest idea, and it has the potential to absolutely blow up in your face if you’re unable to find a deal you like. Also: Keep in mind that the initial reports on a Rask trade indicated that the Bruins were surveying the market value on the 33-year-old Vezina finalist and all-time winningest goalie in franchise history, not that they were determined to ditch the final year of his $7 million per year contract. So there’s really no sense in outright saying that he’s on the block.
It’s entirely possible that this is mere GM talk and that Sweeney still wants to make a change in net.
It’s a seemingly good market to make a move, and Rask’s uncertain future with an expiring contract and approaching his mid-30s may only accelerate their desire to prep for the future. And a separation may be in everyone’s best interest if the Bruins have any doubts about Rask being there when they need him most. For what it’s worth, the Bruins have been completely consistent in their support of Rask and the family emergency that took him out of the Toronto bubble this postseason, and Sweeney himself said that he had ‘zero reservations’ about Rask’s future in Boston.
But no matter the play, Sweeney also understands the importance of having two viable netminders on the roster, and how it’s been the backbone of their success over the last two years, which have come with Jaroslav Halak as the 1B to Rask’s 1A.
“I think with all players, I think that’s becoming more and more apparent; he strains of the league itself, the back-to-backs, we could have a challenging season in that right coming up,” Sweeney said of having a strong one-two in net. “We made that commitment a few years ago, we’ve stuck to it. I think we’ve had some good results. Not quite where we want to be in the end point. Obviously, you had an elite goaltender in [Andrei] Vasilevsky take a team, playing every minute situation in the playoffs. I don’t think there is one way to accomplish the goal but I do believe you have to be in a position to make sure that you can absorb either a short or a long-term injury and feel good about your goaltending moving forward.
“As far as the longevity, obviously, both our goaltenders are playing into their thirties and playing well. I think you’ve got several around the league that are also doing it. I just don’t know when the drop off come and father time gets us all, it’s to be determined for each and every individual. And how they train probably affects it as well.”
Rask, who totaled 26 wins and a .929 save percentage in 41 games this past season, is one of several key Bruins to watch as a truncated, rapid-fire offseason fires up this week beginning with the 2020 NHL Draft.