Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask may be the most divisive individual in all of Boston sports. The hot and cold goaltender has just as many fans as he has detractors, mostly due to the nature of his hot and cold play. While there’s no denying Rask’s skill, his inconsistent play and his penchant for dropping the ball when it matters most is what irks many Bruins fans.
The 31 year old netminder 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 backup goalie Anton Khudobin was not much different putting up a 2.56 goals against average and .913 save percentage in the regular season. The biggest difference between the two isn’t reflected in their statistics though… it’s in their paycheck. Rask earned a cool $7 million this past season while Khudobin earned just $1.2 million. Ouch. Those numbers certainly don’t equate to a $5.8 million difference.
Maybe that’s why Bruins president Cam Neely is making the goaltending position such a priority this offseason? Neely recently addressed the backup position specifically, saying that indeed it’s a priority for the team this offseason:
Interesting that Cam Neely voiced backup goalie as a priority when asked whether left shot D or second line scoring wing was the top offseason priority for the Bruins
To be fair, Khudobin was great when called upon this season. The veteran netminder 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. Still, based on Neely’s assessment of things, the Bruins need someone to push him even more.
So, what are the options? The free agent market this offseason is a veritable goalie graveyard with players like Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier, Eddie Lack, Andrew Hammond and… Khudobin himself. Whether or not any of the above options represent an upgrade over Khudobin himself is anyone’s guess.
Let’s be real for a moment, though. The real problem isn’t so much the backup position. The real problem is having the need to push a former Vezina Trophy winning, $7 million goalie.