Goaltender Tuukka Rask has been a constant mainstay in Boston since the 2009-2010 season, the year in which he put is name on the map when he took over for the often injured Tim Thomas that season. He lad the Bruins to the playoffs, but we all know that end result of that series. From 2010-2012, Rask served as the back-up for Thomas, in 2011, the Bruins win the Stanley Cup with the Thomas-Rask duo, even though Rask didn't play minute throughout the 2011 playoffs but was ready when is number would be called. Since 2013, Rask has been the primary goalie for the Bruins, getting a majority of the Strats. Last couple of seasons, his work load during the regular season decreased given the fact that Bruins had a reliable back-up in Jaroslav Halak which made not only Rask's life a little easier, but made a decision easier for Bruce Cassidy on when he could give Rask a much needed brother or know when Rask in will start when the Bruins were faced three games in four nights.
However, the future doesn't look too bright in Boston these days for Rask, in fact his days as a Boston Bruin appear to be numbered. After Tuukka Rask decided to opt out of the NHL Playoffs due to a family matter with one of his daughters, the speculation truly began, not only here in the Boston/New England; but across the National Hockey League. There mixed reviews out there based off of Rask's decision. Some experts felt that he couldn't handle the pressure of being in the bubble and quit on his team. While others never blamed Rask for his reason, but more on the timing of it.
When the NHL announced their plans for a restart in late May, and players were due for Training Camp in mid-July. The league set a deadline for players to opt out of the restart. Once that deadline, passes, players were free to decide when and if they decided to opt for any personal reason, with a chance to come back. Rask had concerns about leaving his family, especially how how he and wife welcomed their third daughter to the world in late-April. Despite that, and the possibility of the pandemic growing during the summer months, Rask did ultimately decide to enter the bubble with his teammates despite his concerns. If you really want a true time line. Rask had anywhere between May 26th (time when the restart was announced) to July 26th (when the Bruins flew out to Toronto for the restart) to make his decision opt out.
There were rumors the night before Rask officially opted out as he was heard during a press conference call saying that the NHL Playoff felt more like exhibition games than an actual playoff atmosphere. His comments did rub many people off the wrong way and it was reported that his Bruins teammates were angry with his comments. If you gave it some thought, Rask wasn't completely wrong, but it showed that Rask's mind was elsewhere and he wasn't motivated on playing. On August 15, it was reported that Rask had left the Toronto bubble to return home to his family. Rask decision and the announcement came approximately 90 minutes before the Bruins were set to take the ice for Game 3 of their first round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now let's fast forward to the offseason. It was reported that the Bruins had expected Tuukka Rask to return to the Bruins for next season. Once the new season, Rask will be on the final year his current contract with the Bruins which will carry a seven million dollar cap hit. As recent as of Sunday, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney has asked Rask to submit his 15 team no trade list. Rask currently has a modified no trade clause. However, NHL Free Agency is set to begin this Friday October 9th. That is the day in Rask's modified no trade clause ends. As it stands as of right now, the Bruins would have to work out a trade with the 15 teams that are not on his no trade list, but Rask would still have to approve of the move. If Rask is not traded before or by Friday, the Bruins will be free to negotiate a trade for Rask with any of the other 30 NHL franchises, and will not need Rask's permission to send to a said team.
It has been reported within the last week that Sweeney had been seeing what kind of market is out there for Rask, given the fact that there teams across the league that are looking for goalies. Most of them are for back-up roles, but there will be a few teams that will be looking at a starting goaltender and Rask certainly fits the bill give that he has been a consistent starter since 2013.
It does make sense for the Bruins to at least test the waters on a possible Rask trade and it could absolutely come with some benefits for the team in free agency and for the long run. The B's would be able to clear some more money, which will give them some extra flexibility to maybe re-sign a guy like Torey Krug, restricted free agents like Brandon Carlo and Jack DeBrusk contract extensions, give Captain Zdeno Chara another low level one-year deal (which will most likely happen regardless) and maybe sign some other free agents. Certainly there will be a lot of pros to come out of a Rask financially. Goaltending wise, the Bruins may be have to either bite the bullet and ride with Halak, or go a different and sign or trade another goaltender.
Either way, it will still very difficult for Don Sweeney and the Bruins to try and trade Rask, who may have some value out there, but probably not the extent that will help the Bruins out in the short-term. Plus, as mentioned earlier, Rask carries a camp hit of seven million dollars, with a base salary fo $6.5 million for the 2020-21 season. Let's be frank, there aren't may teams in the NHL right now that would want to take on a seven million dollar cap hit a base salarying of six and half. If the Bruins do in fact try to move before or after Friday, the Bruins would have to agree to cover either a portion of half of Rask's cap or base, just for a team to take him. Given the current financial crisis created by COVID that has cost the NHL millions for dollars in revenue between the 189 final regular season games that were cancelled and having no gates for the duration of the playoffs. Plus given the uncertain financial state if the league begins the season without fans in attendance, will really put a strangle hold on the league and many of its teams, and could take the league years to recover.
Let's be honest, the NHL has almost nearly recovered from a season lockout 16 years ago when the 2004-05 season was wiped out completely due to a labor dispute. There was another work stoppage in 2012-2013, but the league quickly recovered from that. With the entire COVID situation putting the league and many teams in bind who rely on the shared revenue, it will make trading Tuukka Rask all the more difficult.
At this point it is a wait and see game, but keep the phone close by as the Rask situation seems to change by the hour it feels like. As mentioned earlier, starting Friday, Rask will begin the final year for an eight year deal that he signed back in 2013. The Seattle Kraken do not begin play until the 2021-22 Season. If they were to begin a year earlier (they are not given the fact they have no where to play at the moment) the expansion draft would've taken place that could've been one way to dump Rask, but alas, there is no expansion draft this offseason. The Bruins will have to either trade or buy Rask out of his contract to move on from him.
October 9th could be a very interesting day for the Bruins.