Tuukka Rask has been practicing with the Boston Bruins for a few weeks, and according to head coach Bruce Cassidy, the veteran goaltender's performance has been impressive.
“He looks good,” Cassidy told reporters after Tuesday's practice. “I’ve watched him for years, so I’m stating the obvious. He’s an excellent goaltender, technically sound. Not a lot of wasted movements for Tuukka. It's been his strength since he came into the league as a 20-year-old. I think it's been well-documented if you go back and look at the scouting reports. That's been his strength, he's always in control. That's been his game from Day 1.
"He certainly looks the part out there right now. He’s coming along very well. You’re never sure with surgery how it’ll go, complications, etc. He got through it, put the work in. I’ve seen him in the gym every morning here at his scheduled time. Clearly, he’s taking it seriously and wants to rehab as quickly as possible. Credit him 100 percent for his work ethic through this whole thing. He looks good on the ice, and time will tell how that translates.”
Rask has not yet signed with the Bruins, but based on recent comments made by Cassidy, general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely, the former Vezina Trophy winner's return seems to be a matter of when, not if.
If all goes well, Rask could be ready for game action later this month. Cassidy reiterated Tuesday that Rask could play a bit with the AHL's Providence Bruins to get up to speed before returning to NHL competition.
His potential return creates an interesting decision for the Bruins. It wouldn't make sense to keep three goalies at the NHL level, especially when COVID-19 is challenging the team's depth at forward and on the blue line.
Rookie netminder Jeremy Swayman is able to be sent to the AHL without having to pass through waivers, while veteran goalie Linus Ullmark has a no-movement clause in his contract. So if Rask does come back to the B's, the easiest move is sending Swayman to Providence. That might not be the most ideal situation for Swayman, but he would get to play more often in Providence than he is in Boston.
Rask is still a good goalie, and just two years ago he finished second in Vezina Trophy voting. If he's now 100 percent healthy after surgically repairing his hip, Rask could give the Bruins a nice boost at the sport's most important position.