What does the long-term future for goaltender Tuukka Rask hold? That’s a question The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun took a closer look at in a recent article discussing the netminder’s past offseason and potential production over the next 56 games. LeBrun looked at a few factors that could speak volumes as to what Rask does next and, to say the least, there are questions for both parties to answer when the 2020-21 season comes to a close.
This past offseason, there were concerns about whether or not Rask might return to the NHL. He left the bubble early during the 2019-20 postseason and it wasn’t completely clear if he wanted to return, although stories of his desire to retire seemed exaggerated. He is back for another season with the Bruins, his last under his current contract that will pay him $7 million.
LeBrun did note, that while Rask might have been contemplating his return, the Bruins were actively trying to see what the market would bare in a trade. There was talk the Bruins were taking calls on the netminder, but ultimately, nothing got done.
Part of the reason is probably that Rask has no desire to play elsewhere. He lacked trade protection, but the threat of a potential retirement might have scared teams away. But, does the fact that he wants to play with the Bruins, and only the Bruins mean he’s destined to stay with the club past this season? Perhaps not.
There were whispers around the league that Bruins GM Don Sweeney was taking calls on Rask in the offseason. The Bruins made a huge decision on Zdeno Chara. Is anyone convinced Patrice Bergeron will play past this season? Where does Rask fit in Boston’s transition? I think the answer lies in how he plays this season and if the Bruins see the goalie who can help shepherd that transition for the next few years.
In other words, the Bruins are going through a change. Rask may not be a part of it. Depending on how he plays, the team might consider offering a short-term extension, but there’s a reason one wasn’t done this offseason, why the Bruins might have examined the market and why there could be a lot of talk surrounding a potential retirement.
If the Bruins don’t see him sticking after this season and Rask doesn’t see himself playing anywhere else, that could be it for him in the NHL.
What If Rask Plays Well?
The question will become, what if Rask performs well this season? He’s still a valuable piece, that if he puts up good numbers, could be of interest to other teams. At that point, it would serve the Bruins well not to let him walk. Could a short-term extension be possible?
Bruins beat writer Fluto Shinzawa notes: “Rask’s 2020-21 performance will steer how he and the Bruins proceed for the years beyond.” At just 34, he was one of the better goaltenders this past season and he’s potentially got more to give. If the team manages his workload properly, he could remain an effective piece for the Bruins as they travel through their transition to a younger blue line.
Rask likes it in Boston and his family is there. If he wants to keep playing and he proves he’s a productive piece perhaps a short-term extension is more likely than retirement.
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