Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made some ripples this week with some interesting comments he made last month about his long-term NHL future in an interview with the Boston Globe.
“I have one year left in the contract, so we’ll see if I even play,” said the 33-year-old Rask to the Globe on his future beyond next season. “We’ll see. [Retirement is] always a possibility.”
It might seem head-scratching given that NHL goaltenders are smack dab in the middle of their career primes in their mid-30s. It’s a position where the good ones can play until they are 40 years old and keep on racking up big-money contracts.
It’s doubly confounding given that Rask is in the middle of a Vezina Trophy-level season this year with a 26-8-6 record, a 2.12 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. Rask has been as good this season as he’s been over the last five-plus years, and he’s been headlining a Bruins team that’s been the NHL’s best for long stretches this season.
But the quixotic comments actually aren’t the first time the Bruins goaltender has hinted that retirement might not be too far away for him. After winning last year’s Winter Classic against the Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium, Rask hinted that it might have been his last time playing in an outdoor game at the NHL level.
"This might be my last outdoor game, you never know," said Rask when asked about the experience of playing in the Winter Classic. "It's a great experience to get the result. The next one, when it happens, maybe I'll be sitting up in the press box drinking beer, who knows?”
It was largely fluffed off at the time given that there were so many things going on with the Bruins, but that’s a couple of times now Rask has intimated he might ride off into the sunset at the end of his current contract. For a guy like Rask, it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Rask has already made $55 million in his NHL career at this point and will bank another $6.5 million next season. At that point he’ll be approaching 35 years of age. He’s had concussions in each of the last three seasons that have knocked him out of commission for a period of time.
Beyond that, Rask is also an interesting guy who has varied interests outside of hockey. He loves other sports like tennis as much, or perhaps more, than he likes hockey, and he’s been a drummer-in-training with a big-time interest in music since he was an up-and-coming goalie prospect. That love of music played into the Bruins giving him a custom-made Metallica drum kit in celebration of his 500th NHL game played.
The point is that Rask isn’t a die-hard hockey guy who is going to have a difficult time filling the void when his NHL playing career is over. Certainly, Rask would like to win a Stanley Cup as the No. 1 guy and cap off his legacy in Boston with the Bruins, and this season could have been a golden opportunity to do just that.
But it doesn’t feel like that is going to keep him hanging around if it doesn’t happen over the next two seasons.
Rask is famous for pretty much disappearing with his family for a period of time when he returns to Finland at the end of each NHL regular season. He doesn’t want to be reached and he certainly doesn’t want to play in the IIHF World Championships when his regular-season work is done at this point in his career.
Rask laughed when asked a couple of months ago if he skated at all during the 10-day NHL All-Star break and bye in the middle of the regular season, as if stepping foot on the ice would have been the furthest thing from his mind.
Some of that was about recovering from the concussion he suffered prior to NHL All-Star Weekend; he had no intention of attending after being selected, of course. Some of that was about taking full advantage of a mental and physical break after spending so much time at the rink over the previous five months.
But some of that was also about a guy in Rask who has plenty of other things going on in his life and isn’t afraid of what awaits him once he’s played his last game for the Bruins. At this point, the best thing the Bruins can do is come up with a contingency plan for their goaltending situation a couple of years down the road.
Because it sure feels like banking on Rask sticking around long-term might not be in the cards.