Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 01: Jeremy Swayman #1 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on May 01, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Shiny New Toy Syndrome is nothing new.

In a way, that’s natural when talking about a team that’s had as little (core) turnover as the Boston Bruins for well over a decade now. But the way SNTS collectively gripped Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman was truly something else. I mean, we were trending towards Gollum-My Precious territory at an alarming rate.

On Tuesday, that toy was officially taken away, with the confirmation that Swayman would be the odd man out for the Bruins upon Tuukka Rask’s signing for what will be a 15th season with Boston.

Now, to be absolutely clear, the Bruins are sending Swayman to Providence. It’s in Rhode Island, which was not one of the circles of hell the last time I looked. He could be back as soon as Wednesday if a rapid test spells bad news for Rask or Linus Ullmark. Or if there’s an injury of any sort to either guy, which is certainly possible given Ullmark’s history dating back to Buffalo and Rask’s road back from hip surgery (he still hasn’t faced the grind of live game action).

No matter how you slice it, he’s not going far and it may not be for very long.

Which makes the panic regarding this all the more puzzling.

  • Dec 2, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) watches the puck behind the net during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

    It didn’t take for people to start claiming that Swayman was going to follow Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn’s lead and ask for a trade as a result of the demotion.

    That’d be one hell of a demand after the first real demotion of his career, and I bet it’d make Rask, shuffled back and forth from Providence to Boston about a dozen times on his rookie contract, feel real dumb for not doing the same. It’d also be a complete reversal from the personality Swayman has shown.

    But Swayman didn’t ask for a trade. Instead, Swayman had one question for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney when he delivered the news: If those two guys struggle, will I get the net? That is the Swayman the Bruins have determined to be their man of the future. The keyword there, of course, being future.

    Nothing about what the Bruins did on Tuesday changes Swayman’s future in Boston. That was made abundantly clear. Hell, the Bruins made that clear when they decided to trade Daniel Vladar so Swayman could begin the year in the NHL.

    (I’d also argue that if a single demotion back to the minors, where the 23-year-old will get a steady diet of starts to iron out some kinks, is what undoes Swayman and ruins his future, then he wasn’t really the future in the first place.)

    “He’s going to be the goalie for us for a long time,” Sweeney said. “He knows he’s a big part of our current team, as well as moving forward. Most importantly, he’s got a hell of a long career in front of him as a Boston Bruin.”

  • Dec 14, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) adjusts his glove during the second period of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    And the Bruins aren’t bringing Rask back because they don’t believe in Swayman.

    They’re bringing Rask back because one of the game’s top goaltenders when healthy wanted to come back to the Bruins on a one-year deal worth under $600,000 in real money. In another year of COVID unpredictability, you’re not turning that down.

    Especially when you’re as ‘win now’ as the Bruins have confirmed that they are. To the Bruins, Rask is one more piece who, when on his game and healthy, can make it that much harder to close the Black and Gold’s window.

    All things being equal, going with a Rask-Ullmark tandem represents an upgrade over the Rask-Halak tandem the Bruins iced for the previous three seasons. It’s an upgrade being made at half the price of the predecessor, too. Factor Swayman in as your No. 3 option and the Bruins have three NHL-quality netminders at their disposal.

    Can anybody else in the league say that? Off the top of my head, I can’t think of one.

    Swayman’s role as the No. 3 in this is hugely important in the sense that it’s not coming at the expense of live action. He’ll be The Guy™ in Providence, and if he’s not seeing action there, it’s because he’s seeing action here. There’s no ‘development stunting’ at play. If anything, this is a crash course in handling the pace of a real professional season.

    And while it may not have been the original plan when the Bruins entered the 2021 offseason, the revised plans were made clear to everybody in October just before the season started and when the 34-year-old Rask made it official that he wanted to make it a comeback if his rehab and recovery went smoothly.

    There’s not a member of that organization who didn’t know Rask was going to give it a go and return to the Bruins.

    That confirmed that it was going to take something incredible from Swayman to shift that uncomfortable conversation about his demotion to another goalie in the room. An 8-6-2 record and .918 save percentage — and perhaps most notably, a 1-5-1 record and .903 save percentage against playoff teams — was encouraging, without a doubt, but it wasn’t quite enough.

    The most important truth within *motions with hands* all of that? It doesn’t have to be.

    Not yet, anyway.