No group desires to listen to that its Vezina-Trophy-winning, future Corridor-of-Fame goaltender wants hip surgical procedure and received’t play hockey once more till a minimum of January 2022.
We certain about that?
Within the 12 months 2021, throughout the period of the flat $81.5-million wage cap, on a group with a truckload of adverse free-agent selections to make, the timing and, extra importantly, the timeline of Tuukka Rask’s damage might be a blessing for the Boston Bruins.
Earlier than factoring in any missed time for Rask, GM Don Sweeney had a migraine-inducing to do listing to determine this low season. In web, Rask and veteran battery mate Jaroslav Halak are each UFAs. With late-season call-up Jeremy Swayman delivering on his prospect pedigree and establishing himself as a future star, one in all Rask or Halak needed to be expendable transferring ahead. That was clear after Swayman pushed Halak to 3rd on the depth chart by the point the post-season arrived. Sweeney, then, must select between the extra completed and costly Rask, 34, or the older however cheaper and more healthy Halak, 36.
At ahead, the Bruins lastly solved their secondary scoring woes this season due to the low season signing of proper winger Craig Smith and significantly due to the April-12 commerce for left winger Taylor Corridor. Armed with two viable scoring wingers, second-line heart David Krejci performed his finest hockey in years. The Bruins’ powerhouse high line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak scored 48.1 % of Boston’s targets in 2020-21 earlier than the Corridor commerce. After it, together with the playoffs, it was 42.8 % for line 1 and a wholesome 28.9 % for Spherical 2. The issue: Corridor and Krejci are each UFAs this low season. Add them to the precedence re-signing pile with Rask. Sweeney said earlier this week that there’s mutual curiosity in Corridor re-signing and that the group hopes to deliver Krejci again, too.
On protection, Sweeney should work out a brand new contract with burly second-pair blueliner Brandon Carlo, who has probably earned an AAV within the $4-million vary. The Bruins additionally actually appreciated the puck-moving raise they received from deadline-day acquisition Mike Reilly, and guess what? He’s a UFA. Oh, and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who broke out to turn out to be the all-round horse Boston wanted him to be and certain obtained some down-ballot Norris Trophy votes, is eligible to signal an extension starting this low season. Put him down for an AAV north of $7 million – possibly even $8 million if we use Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot as a comparable.
Factoring in potential bridge pacts for depth contributors similar to left wingers Jake DeBrusk and Nick Ritchie, the Bruins’ projected $26.98 million in cap area out of the blue doesn’t really feel like so much. And that’s the place Rask is available in. His damage may also help Don Sweeney navigate the salary-cap waters in a number of methods.
Even earlier than Rask received damage, the Bruins had leverage over him. He’d publicly said he needed to play in Boston solely or retire, which set him up for a hometown low cost worth, particularly on a group identified for a tradition by which its star gamers take much less cash than they’re value for the sake of successful. Swayman’s breakout got here in too small of a pattern measurement to make Rask expendable, but it surely did present the Bruins that they’ve respectable depth behind Rask, which may additionally shrink his worth. Now the damage drops his value even additional.
On the flip aspect, the damage may turn out to be a cap weapon for Boston since Rask might be positioned on LTIR in the event that they signal him earlier than he is wholesome, permitting Boston to exceed the cap by as much as 10 % throughout the low season. That mentioned, it might nonetheless be a dangerous sport to play, because it’s robust to think about Boston “pulling a Nikita Kucherov” with Rask and bringing him in just for the 2022 post-season when the cap not issues. That technique merely doesn’t work with a goaltender, who wants repetitive sport motion to search out his rhythm and may’t simply dive into the playoffs chilly. So if Boston does signal Rask within the low season, it most likely is smart to take action at a quantity that isn’t exorbitant. Suppose $5 million – then place that quantity on LTIR.
And if the Bruins can do this? Welcome again Corridor, Krejci and maybe Reilly. Pay up for Carlo and, in 2022-23, McAvoy. Hope that the Seattle Kraken pluck a decent-sized wage or RFA’s projected wage off the roster to help with cap compliance for 2021-22. Signal an affordable veteran stopgap like James Reimer to carry down the online in tandem with Swayman for the primary half of subsequent season. Not solely does putting Rask on LTIR – or making a handshake settlement to signal him later within the season as soon as wholesome – give the Bruins much more monetary flexibility throughout an low season by which they badly want it, however his layoff may also give the group extra time to judge Swayman and see if he’s able to be their No. 1 netminder in 2022-23 and past.