Despite the addition of free agents Jaroslav Halak, John Moore and Joakim Nordstrom on the opening day of NHL free agency, it’s been a pretty uneventful offseason for Boston Bruins fans.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney reportedly pursued superstar free agent John Tavares aggressively, before Tavares ultimately decided to sign with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1st. Of course, forwards Rick Nash, Riley Nash and Tim Schaller have all departed the team this offseason and, so far, Sweeney has been stymied in replacing them on the team’s depth chart. It’s expected that youngsters Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen will all receive increased roles with the team in 2018-19.
The Bruins’ most significant move so far this offseason has to be the addition of the veteran Halak. The 33 year old Slovakian netminder had an awful campaign with the New York Islanders in 2017-18, but he’s still a quality NHL goaltender capable of handling #1 starting duties when required. In fact, because of his history as a #1, Bruins insider Joe Haggery believes that Halak could make longtime Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask expendable.
Say what!? Despite all the criticism that Bruins fans love to heap on Rask, he still finished the season with a 34-14-5 record, good enough for 7th amongst all NHL goaltenders. Because of this, Haggerty believes that Rask could net the Bruins a huge return on the trade market.
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It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen, but the addition of Halak for multiple years also opens up the possibility of trading away Rask if the right deal comes across Sweeney’s desk. The $2.75 million per season that the Bruins are paying Halak is the going rate for a top-of-the-line goalie, but it now also means the B’s are paying just under $10 million per season over the next two years for their goaltending tandem. That’s a whopping 12.5 percent of the $79.5 million in salary cap space, which is much less than either of the teams in this spring’s Stanley Cup Final (Vegas paid $6.4 million for their goalies and Washington paid $7.6 million for the Braden Holtby/Philipp Grubauer combo) shelled out for their goaltending.
Rask has a limited trade clause for this upcoming season where he can be traded to eight NHL teams, and that “can be traded to” list gets bumped up to 15 teams in the following season. The Bruins did everything possible last season to make sure that Rask was mentally and physically rested with the 54 appearances, which was right around the targeted 55-60 games the Bruins had him penciled in for at the start of last season.
So why not start to explore what Rask could yield in a hockey trade, and even pull the trigger if the price is right given that Halak is there as a proven starting goaltender? There has been plenty of talk about Torey Krug being on the move if the right trade comes up to fit Boston’s needs, and there’s no reason why Boston’s All-Star, $7 million a year goaltender shouldn’t be part of that roster improvement conversation as well.
Nobody is saying to ship Rask simply for the sake of doing it, and clearly the Bruins would need to find themselves a young goalie they could groom as the eventual No. 1 guy to go along with the older, declining Halak. But the signing of Halak officially opened the door for the Bruins to at least toy with the idea of moving Rask in a good hockey trade to a team desperate for goaltending help (Carolina, the Islanders and the Flyers immediately come to mind), and that might not be such a bad thing for the Black and Gold.
Some interesting landing places, to be sure. No doubt that Rask could take a team like the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers to the next level, but as with any trade the real question is, “what’s the asking price?”