When it comes to a potential Tuukka Rask extension, the Bruins are reportedly open for business.
To be honest, nothing about this should shock you. Despite some rumblings that Rask’s time in Boston was coming to an end, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney threw cold water on Rask trade rumors. Sweeney then backed up his talk when he passed on adding a goaltender in what was a buyer-friendly market for goaltenders, and it helps that Rask himself said that he had no doubts about his Boston future. In fact, Rask, who joked about retiring at the end of his deal last year, has made it clear that he wants to finish his career with the Bruins.
So, this should by all accounts be an easy negotiation to keep the franchise’s all-time winningest goalie in town.
But what would that deal look like for Rask and the Bruins?
In the final year of an eight-year, $56 million signed in 2013, Rask began his season by outright admitting that he’s not really focused on a timeline when it comes to his new deal. I mean, the dude honestly couldn’t have been more ‘meh’ about the entire thing in terms of a set timeline or demand to get it done.
“I’m comfortable with where we are right now,” Rask said in his first media availability of the 2021 season back in January. “I just wanna go out there, start the season off right, and kind of get in a good groove and play good hockey personally and as a team. If the contract talks happen during the season, then so be it. If they don’t, then we’ll just wait it out and see what happens.”
(Seriously, a more perfectly Rask approach, you could not find.)
At the negotiating table, however, it feels fair to expect (or at least ask) Rask to take a step back from his current $7 million per year cap hit. It’s not that Rask isn’t worth that. He honestly might be worth more when you look at some of the contracts handed out in recent seasons, with Matt Murray earning over $6 million on his deal with the Senators signed in 2020 and the Panthers signing Sergei Bobrovsky to a long-term deal with a $10 million cap hit in 2019. (See the potential problem you immediately run into here when saying that Rask needs to paycut?)
But with his 34th birthday on the horizon, and with a focus on getting Rask closer to a 50-50 split in the Boston crease every season, it’s easy for the Bruins to pitch it as a move that only makes sense. A cut, even a slight one, would allow the Bruins to allocate money elsewhere to build a better team in front of Rask. The team also has extensions for Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, and David Pastrnak all coming in the next three offseasons. Their recent spending habits, as well as the decision not to add a big contract via trade this past offseason, would be indicative of a franchise cognizant of the upcoming paydays they’ll have to dole out.
And if this is the only place Rask wants to play — and I believe this to absolutely, 100 percent be the case — a ‘discount’ to make that happen would also help the Bruins in their potential request to take less.
Looking at the ‘best case scenario’ for the Bruins in these talks, the Bruins’ closest comparable when it comes to this kind of deal can be found in Nashville. It was in 2018 that Pekka Rinne, then in the final year of a seven-year, $49 million deal signed a two-year extension worth $10 million (a $2 million drop in his yearly cap hit).
Keep in mind that Rinne was coming off a career-best 42 wins and .927 save percentage in 2017-18 and Vezina Trophy when he signed that extension. So this truly was a high-caliber goaltender wanting to stay in place, and on a deal that made the perfect amount of sense for a then-competitive Preds team in terms of both financial flexibility and commitment to a goalie approaching the twilight of his career.
Rask is in a similar boat here, too, with the seventh-best save percentage (.918) and goals saved above average per 60 (0.24) among goaltenders with at least 4,000 minutes of all-situation play over the last three years. Narrow that down to even-strength, and Rask is second in save percentage (.928), and has saved 25.40 goals above average. Only Ben Bishop has posted a better save percentage, and only Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Darcy Kuemper have saved more goals above average than Rask. The Bruins’ recent management of No. 40 has done wonders.
The greatest difference, of course, is that Rinne was 36 when he signed that deal, while Rask turns 34 this month.
That brings us to the term.
It’s honestly hard to imagine Rask wanting another eight-year deal. (Not that the Bruins would offer that.) And when speaking about his future, it’s worth mentioning that Rask himself talked about playing another “one to three years.” The truth is that he’s probably a lot closer to the end than many of us might realize.
This brings us to another comparable: The Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury.
Leading Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season, the Golden Knights rewarded Fleury with a three-year, $21 million extension a year before he was set to hit unrestricted free agency. That contract came with a slight bump up from Fleury’s $5.75 million cap hit, and set Fleury up with a contract through his Age-37 season. And after losing a grip on the starting job last year, which prompted the Knights to trade for (and later extend) Robin Lehner, Fleury is back on top in Vegas, with 11 wins and a .939 save percentage through 14 games this season.
Jaroslav Halak, another goalie the Bruins are reportedly open to extending, plays a factor in this one, too. The Bruins have been careful not to block their prospects out of a potential job opening, and with Jeremy Swayman and Daniel Vladar both off to hot starts for the P-Bruins this year, a pair of multi-year deals could make things odd.
And if you’re talking about multi-year deals involving your mid-30s goaltending tandem, it goes to Rask.
Now, taking both the Rinne situation and Fleury situation into account as it relates to Rask and the Bruins (if it does at all), the easiest move for the Bruins out of the gate would be to come at Rask with a two- or three-year deal worth between $6 and $7 million per season. Both sides will have their preference, of course, both in term of dollars and contract length, and nobody knows if that’s enough to get this done.
But with the Bruins officially open for business, and Rask repeatedly expressing a desire to stay in Boston, splitting the difference across the board seems like the path of least resistance for all involved.