What does the future hold for Tuukka Rask?
The Boston Bruins goaltender is about to enter the final year of his contract, one he signed in 2013 after leading the B's to the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rask has been one of the league's top netminders for most of his tenure in Boston. Despite his excellent performance, the Bruins have yet to win a championship with Rask as the starting goalie. This result, fair or not, has led to Rask taking a lot of criticism from the fans and media.
The 33-year-old veteran was the subject of trade rumors over the offseason, which isn't uncommon for a player eligible to hit the free agent market later this year.
Rask was asked about his future with the B's in a Zoom call after Wednesday's training camp practice.
“I think what the situation is now, everything is kind of upside down with the hockey world,” Rask said. “And I’m sure (Bruins GM Don Sweeney) has a lot on his plate right now -- my contract situation is probably not on the top of his list at the moment. I’m comfortable where we are right now. I just want to go out there and start the season off right and kind of get on a good groove and play good hockey personally and as a team.
“And if the contract talks happen during the season then so be it. If they don’t, we’ll just wait it out and see what happens. My main focus is just to get the season started off right and then worry about the future after that."
Rask also reiterated that he only wants to play for the Bruins.
“I’ve said before I have no intention of playing anywhere else but the Bruins, so if I’m good enough to play one, two, three more years then so be it," Rask explained. "If not, then so be it. So that’s where my head is at.”
Rask is back with the Bruins after leaving the team during its 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff run inside the Toronto bubble. He left to be with his family -- a move his coaches and teammates fully supported.
The B's, despite a rough offseason that saw the team's roster weaken (especially on the blue line), are still a contender in the Eastern Conference. One of the biggest reasons why is the team's elite goaltending, led by Rask and backup Jaroslav Halak. This goalie tandem allowed the fewest goals per game and ranked No. 1 in save percentage last season.
The Bruins don't have a long-term solution in net if Rask doesn't sign some sort of contract extension. Halak is not a championship level netminder, and while the B's do have some talented goalie prospects -- Dan Vladar, Jeremy Swayman, etc. -- none of those young players are close to being ready for a starting role.
Rask is still a top-tier player -- he finished No. 2 in Vezina Trophy voting last year -- so if he wants to keep playing for the Bruins beyond this season, the team should try to find a way to make that happen, especially if it intends to be a contender in the short term.