Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

There are a couple of inalienable facts about next year’s goaltending situation with the Boston Bruins.

The first is that the B’s have most definitely upgraded in that area with 33-year-old Jaroslav Halak as the backup to Tuukka Rask. Halak is a flat-out better goalie than Anton Khudobin, and should be a little more consistent than the Russian backup, who was admittedly excellent last season while racking up a 16-6-7 record as Tuukka Rask’s understudy.

Halak, on the other hand, has won less than 18 games in a season only twice in his 10 full seasons at the NHL level, and has been a starter with the Canadiens, Blues, Capitals and Islanders with a career .916 save percentage over his NHL career. In case anybody hadn’t noticed that’s also been Tuukka Rask’s save percentage over the last three seasons for the Bruins.

Which brings us to inalienable goaltending fact No. 2: Halak is going to push Rask like he hasn’t been challenged since truly taking over as the top goalie in Boston.

The last truly competitive situation with Rask between the B’s pipes was in 2011-12 in Tim Thomas’ last season with the Bruins when the Finnish goaltender was backing up a reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Rask had temporarily taken Thomas’ job away from him two years prior during the 2009-10 season when he was a rookie goalie, and that sparked the best season of Thomas’ NHL career where he led the Black and Gold to a Stanley Cup victory.


Since then Rask has had “just another guys” like Chad Johnson, Niklas Svedberg, Jonas Gustavsson and Anton Khudobin backing him up, and none of those backups had the kind of juice to truly take Rask’s job away from him. The best Khudobin could do was start four straight games for the Bruins back in November of last season, and that turned out to be one of the turning points in a 112-point campaign where Rask was significantly motivated from that point onward.

Halak could legitimately get on a hot streak in the regular season and force the Bruins coaching staff to sit Rask for weeks, or even a month, at a time, and that’s something no backup has ever been able to do behind Boston’s Franchise Finn. That should be a good thing and that is something the B’s are already counting on to happen for next season.

“We’ve talked about internal competition. Maybe it puts Tuukka in a better mindset. There were nights when Tuukka [played] back-to-backs. That’s a lot of stress on the goaltender knowing… I think two years ago we didn’t have a win by our backup at Christmas time,” said Don Sweeney, on July 1 after signing Halak to a two-year contract. “I’m not sure you guys wrote about it, but I did, and I lost sleep about it.

“I think we have two guys that have carried the ball for their teams, [and] that will push each other, that will complement each other, and we feel good that now going in every night. That is an area we aren’t going to be concerned about, hopefully. Obviously, it’s [about] the performance now.”

Now here’s the fork in the road where the inalienable Bruins goaltending facts and some good, old-fashioned speculation go their separate ways.

It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen, but the addition of Halak for multiple years also opens up the possibility of trading away Rask if the right deal comes across Sweeney’s desk. The $2.75 million per season that the Bruins are paying Halak is the going rate for a top-of-the-line goalie, but it now also means the B’s are paying just under $10 million per season over the next two years for their goaltending tandem. That’s a whopping 12.5 percent of the $79.5 million in salary cap space, which is much less than either of the teams in this spring’s Stanley Cup Final (Vegas paid $6.4 million for their goalies and Washington paid $7.6 million for the Braden Holtby/Philipp Grubauer combo) shelled out for their goaltending.

In fact, only Montreal is spending more money on goaltending than the Bruins this season thanks to the awful Carey Price contract, and – along with the Bruins -- only the Panthers, Canadiens and Avalanche are paying north of $9 million in cap space for their goalies next season. For a Bruins team that was just barely in the NHL’s top-10 in save percentage and where the goaltending wasn’t really a demonstrable strength in the playoffs, that feels like a lot.  


Rask has a limited trade clause for this upcoming season where he can be traded to eight NHL teams, and that “can be traded to” list gets bumped up to 15 teams in the following season. The Bruins did everything possible last season to make sure that Rask was mentally and physically rested with the 54 appearances, which was right around the targeted 55-60 games the Bruins had him penciled in for at the start of last season.

But even after all that rest and being given the high maintenance treatment, Rask still responded with a shaky postseason that was the worst statistically of his career. The 2.88 goals against average and .903 save percentage were the worst playoff marks of his NHL career, and Rask was an absolute disaster in their Game 7 showdown with the Maple Leafs. If the Bruins hadn’t completely shut down Toronto in the first half of the third period where they didn’t allow a shot on net (and didn’t allow Rask to even be a factor in the balance of that game), they probably wouldn’t have even advanced beyond the first round prior to their second round smack-down at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rask was better in the second round vs. Tampa and added to his career highlight reel when he angrily fired a broken skate blade at the boards, but there are still some of the very same, nagging questions about Boston’s top goalie when it comes to big games.   

So why not start to explore what Rask could yield in a hockey trade, and even pull the trigger if the price is right given that Halak is there as a proven starting goaltender? There has been plenty of talk about Torey Krug being on the move if the right trade comes up to fit Boston’s needs, and there’s no reason why Boston’s All-Star, $7 million a year goaltender shouldn’t be part of that roster improvement conversation as well.

Nobody is saying to ship Rask simply for the sake of doing it, and clearly the Bruins would need to find themselves a young goalie they could groom as the eventual No. 1 guy to go along with the older, declining Halak. But the signing of Halak officially opened the door for the Bruins to at least toy with the idea of moving Rask in a good hockey trade to a team desperate for goaltending help (Carolina, the Islanders and the Flyers immediately come to mind), and that might not be such a bad thing for the Black and Gold.  


Karson Kuhlman questionable for Leafs game after missing Bruins practice

Karson Kuhlman questionable for Leafs game after missing Bruins practice

BRIGHTON – The Bruins are getting a little banged up as they now get a little deeper into the regular season.

Bruins right winger Karson Kuhlman was missing from Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena after getting hit in the leg with a Jake DeBrusk shot during Saturday night’s overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kuhlman was limited to 9:19 of ice time in the overtime game and has gone scoreless in the first nine games of the season while playing mostly a top-6 role for the Black and Gold.

Likewise, David Krejci was missing from Monday’s practice and will again be out Tuesday night against the Maple Leafs that will make his third consecutive game missed since suffering an upper-body injury in last week’s win over Anaheim.

Both Joakim Nordstrom and Par Lindholm were wearing no-contact jerseys in Monday’s practice as well, and the Bruins had the bare minimum 12 forwards to practice with after a day off the ice completely on Sunday.

“Kuhlman is day-to-day and we’ll see how he responds [on Tuesday]. So that we’ll determine in the morning,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Lindholm looks good to go. Nordstrom probably not as far along as [Lindholm] as far as being good to go, but that’s a decision we’ll make tomorrow. Krejci won’t play [on Tuesday] and we’ll see how it works out for later in the week.”

Both Krejci and Nordstrom are out for the Leafs game and it looks like Lindholm is going to be able to play, so the health of Kuhlman is the one unknown headed into the B’s next game.

The good news for the Bruins is that they continue to stay healthy on the back end, and perhaps the injuries upfront will force the B’s to finally call up Anders Bjork from Providence as a reinforcement after a hot start for the P-Bruins. Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Monday’s practice ahead of the Tuesday night rematch between the Bruins and Leafs this time at TD Garden:











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Brad Marchand puts opponent in headlock, opponent calls it 'a great play'

Brad Marchand puts opponent in headlock, opponent calls it 'a great play'

Lost in the big divisional games over the last few days for the Bruins against the Lightning and Maple Leafs was a small moment toward the end of Thursday’s shootout loss to the Bolts that could have meant an extra point for the B’s.

During the closing seconds of overtime, the Lightning had the Bruins scrambling in their own end and Brayden Point collected the puck along the sideboards after already putting up a couple of points in the game. Brad Marchand then opted to put Point in a headlock and lock down any chances of the Lightning ending the game ahead of the shootout with only a couple of seconds remaining in OT.

There was no penalty, and even if there had been there was really no downside to doing it since Marchand would have been free and clear to take part in the shootout, as he did, even if a minor penalty had been called on him. It was a smart hockey play from a smart hockey player that’s always looking for an edge and doesn’t mind going the outside-the-box route that includes throwing a headlock on the occasional opponent.

Obviously it didn’t work out as the Bruins ended up losing 4-3 to the Bolts in the shootout, but interestingly enough even Point was giving the habitually line-stepping Marchand credit for “a great play” after it was all over.

“I’m going for the puck, really it’s a great play,” said Point of Marchand, who has four goals and 12 points in eight games this season to go along with the one headlock. “There’s not much time, he breaks up a potential chance for us and he still gets to shoot in the shootout. There’s no real consequence for that, so really it’s a good play.”

With a pair of points earned in the last couple of games, the Bruins have a few more big games this week against the Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues. It remains to be seen if No. 63 has any more “really good plays” in his bag of tricks after the savvy, on-brand headlock from Marchand during last week’s tangle with Tampa.

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