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Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins looks on during action against the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 19, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

A free agent for the first time in his career, netminder Tuukka Rask has made it clear that he only wants to play for the Boston Bruins.

He’s repeatedly said as much throughout the year, and Rask has been at the team facility (and wearing Bruins gear) as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery in preparation for what he hopes will be a 15th NHL season. And given the way the Bruins have talked about his return, making his seem like an inevitability more than anything else, it’s understandably felt like Rask will play for the Bruins or not at all in 2021-22 and beyond.

But perhaps a ‘Boston or bust’ is an assumption and nothing more.

“I don’t think it’s Boston or bust. At least that’s not the information that I’ve heard,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during a Thursday appearance on The Jeff Marek Show. “I’ve just heard the Bruins remain his No. 1 priority. Now, we’ll see what happens, but that’s just what I’ve heard.”

Friedman’s answer, in case you’re wondering, came in response to Marek wondering if a team like the Oilers would make sense for the 34-year-old Rask.

Off to a strong 11-4-0 start, the Oilers currently sit as the second-best team in the Western Conference in points, but are tops in point percentage (.733). They’re led by their high-powered one-two of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, of course, but goaltending has been an obvious question (and for years).

Edmonton is currently without Mike Smith (and have been since Oct. 19), and have rolled with Mikko Koskinen as the team’s starter in his absence, with nine wins and a .910 save percentage in 11 decisions. And overall, the Oilers are surrendering 3.13 goals against per game, which ranks as the 10th-most in hockey.

It’s obvious that a healthy Rask would be an upgrade over both Smith and Koskinen, and a Rask run in Edmonton could elevate the Oilers to true Stanley Cup contender status in what feels like a wide-open West.

But going from Boston to Edmonton would fly in the face of what Rask has said from the jump when it comes to his playing future and why he wants to stay in Boston. Rask has cited his family and their roots established here in Boston as the reason for not wanting to play for another team. He’s also said that he wants to win a Stanley Cup with the Bruins, and that being part of that with this current core group of players is something he considers to be important.

Factor that in with what Friedman is hinting at, and the discussion may have very well changed from Rask saying that he’ll only play for the Bruins in 2021-22 to Rask wanting to play for the Bruins, but ultimately wanting to play somewhere in 2021-22 if the Bruins decide that they’re better off with a Jeremy Swayman-Linus Ullmark tandem.

The Swayman-Ullmark tandem is off to a somewhat polarizing start in 2021-22, with both goaltenders ‘called out’ (lightly) by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy through the first month of the season, and with the Bruins posting a .906 five-on-five save percentage (28th in the league) as a team through their first 13 games of the new season.

The Bruins haven’t seemed opposed to stocking up with three capable netminders, for what it’s worth, with Sweeney noting that ‘problem’ as being anything but when asked about it earlier this year.

“I see it like having extremely good goaltending at that point in time,” Sweeney said back in July. “Jeremy [Swayman] is in a position where we have flexibility. He could be the best goaltender, and then you feel like not a lot of teams juggle with three, but you have opportunity if you needed to send Jeremy down [to the American Hockey League] and get to the playoffs and play the best goaltender. Ultimately, you’d have, in Linus and Tuukka in that case, as you spelled it, that’s hypothetical.”

Rask is still trending towards an early 2022 return, from all indications, and will clearly, most definitely have a market.

Be it in Boston, Edmonton, or anywhere looking for some added help in goal.

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.