When the Boston Bruins management team faced the media to wrap up the 2017-18 season, president Cam Neely made stunning comments on one of the club's priority for the offseason. Neely addressed the backup position specifically, saying that indeed it’s a priority for the team this offseason.
“Right now, I think we need to figure out what we’re doing with the backup goaltender. That’s an important piece. If we’re going to have the goalie be expected to play at least 25 games, then you’re going to need one that’s going to give you some really good starts,” said Neely. “Then after that, you could pick between the forward group. I think we have enough skill and offensive talent, but it just dried up for us for whatever reason in the playoffs.
No one quite knew what he might and what it meant to current Bruins backup Anton Khudobin, however, according to two Bruins insider, the team might be closing in on their first offseason move. According to both Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe and team insider Jimmy Murphy, the Bruins are very close to a two-year contract extension with Khudobin.
Starting netminder Tuukka Rask finished the 2017-18 regular season with a respectable 2.36 goals against average and .917 save percentage that ballooned to a 2.88 goals against average and .903 save percentage during the playoffs. By comparison, Khudobin was not much different putting up a 2.56 goals against average and .913 save percentage in the regular season.
Some may believe he could deserve a better pay raise than the one reported by the two Bruins insiders...
Khudobin played 31 games to Rask’s 54 games for the Bruins in 2017-18. Those 54 games represent the fewest Rask has played in a season since he and Tim Thomas were splitting starts five years ago. In other words, Khudobin did a fantastic job of pushing Rask.
While Neely's comments made it seem like the team might be looking at other free agent goalie, such as Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier, Eddie Lack, Andrew Hammond, to push Rask, it seems like Khudobin has convinced the team he is the best man for the job.
As soon as this first offseason move is made by the Bruins, there is still a lot to do. Neely also pointed out the need to upgrade the defense, and Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston gave him loads of options on who to get to cross that off his shopping list. Haggerty listed Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin, Edmonton Oilers' Oscar Kelfbom - not the first time you hear his name in trades speculation with the Bruins - and Noah Hanifin of the Carolina Hurricanes.