The Boston Bruins are going to be beginning next season without Tuukka Rask, that much is clear.
After dealing with a torn labrum at the end of the season, Rask, a pending unrestricted free agent, is set to undergo surgery this offseason that will keep him out until likely January or February. That means unless the Bruins go out and sign a netminder– or re-sign Jaroslav Halak — they’ll enter the season with Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar as their top two goalies.
Swayman showed promise early on in his NHL career, beating out Halak to become Boston’s backup netminder in the postseason. But the sample size on him is small, and just by virtue of a little thing called time, neither Swayman nor Vladar can be regarded as locks to be No. 1 goalies in the NHL just yet.
“Time is going to tell whether or not one of them is going to be a number one goaltender in the National Hockey League,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Tuesday over Zoom. “I think we’re very comfortable with the depth in the organization having those two young players. We’re in the early stages of learning if Tuukka has decided to have surgery, and we have to make a decision. If we’re going to go to market and bring in a player that we feel is ahead of those two players or certainly from an experience standpoint, or we do roll the dice a little bit, allow those guys to see if they can handle the workload, which is a tall task. Make no mistake about it, it?s a tall task.
“Small sample size of Jeremy, he played extremely well. Daniel played well in his starts. Obviously, had an overall hiccup as a team, I think we were pretty beaten up the one night when we played Washington at home. But Daniel acquitted himself very well, particularly against Pittsburgh on the road in that game he played. Again, we’re still in the early stages and feel comfortable with the depth. But we have a very crucial decision to make and chart a course for certainly the first part of the season as to when Tuukka will be ready. We have to forecast that accurately if Tuukka does decide to come back and play and how he fits in.”
Team president Cam Neely was pretty direct.
“We’re pretty confident in our goaltender with Jeremy Swayman and also Vladar,” Neely said. “Haven’t seen enough of Vladar but Swayman gave us a little bit of a taste of what type of goalie he can be in the National Hockey League. So, we feel pretty comfortable starting the season with him.”
Of course, re-signing Rask and having him healthy and rested for the home stretch of the season, all while giving the two youngsters a lot of NHL playing development, could be beneficial on a number of levels. It helps that Rask is more than willing to mentor the young goalies.
But until Rask re-signs, something he’s indicated he would like to do, nothing can be set in stone.