If you haven’t already heard, during a recent interview Rask was asked about his hockey future. In the interview Rask said there was a possibility he hangs up his skates when his current contract is done after next season. Rask also said he wouldn’t return to his native Finland to play. Rask has not been shy in the past saying there was more to life than hockey, and this is just another example. With a growing family to take care of and spend time with next season could be Rask’s last in the NHL. Losing an all-time great franchise goalie is never easy, so let’s take a look at some options the Bruins have moving forward.
With still another year until any of these players are available, predicting which will hit the market isn’t going to be exact. With that in mind here are a few options that could be available for a short or long term solution in the Bruin’s net.
The first goalie who will likely be available is Antti Raanta. While staying healthy has been an issue for Raanta, when he is on the ice he has been a quality option. Arizona already has one of the best goalies in the league over the last few years in Darcy Kuemper, so they are unlikely to retain Raanta. With a career record of 88-60-18, to go with a 2.40 goals against and a .921 save percentage, Rannta would be a quality option to take over for Rask. With his injury history it’s possible he would split games with one of the prospects we have in the pipeline.
The next potential free-agent option is Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek. While Mrazek might be the least impressive option on this list he is also the youngest, still only 29 at the start of the 21-22 season. It’s no secret that Carolina has been looking to upgrade their goalie position,and with talented prospects coming up Mrazek will likely be looking for a new team. With a career record of 122-94-28, a 2.62 goals against and a .910 save percentage Petr is still a decent starting option. With the Bruins defensive system and strong core Mrazek could have his best seasons in the Black and Gold. This will likely only happen if the prospects we have are still in need of more time to develop.
Next we move to the oldest option in Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild. Dubnyk will be 35 at the start of the 21-22 season, and likely used as a bridge to the goalies we have coming through the system. He could also split starts with one a current prospect if they show they are able to play at the NHL level. This would be a short term solution, but still a quality replacement. Devan has a career record of 247-195-52, a 2.58 goals against and a .915 save percentage. Dubnyk has been one of the most consistent goalies in the league during his time with the Wild.
Another potential Rask replacement is Blues goalie Jake Allen. While Allen has struggled as the clear number one option he’s has been very impressive when he has split starts or served as a backup. With Binnington as the Blues future that leaves Allen as the odd man out, and possibly looking for a new team next summer. A career record of 148-94-26 with a goals-against of 2.50 and a .913 save percentage show Allen is a capable starter in the league. Allen would be brought in to be more of a 1A type of starter, splitting time with whichever prospect earns the 1B role.
The final free agent option on this list is Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen. Andersen has piled up wins for the high powered Leafs, but their lackluster defensive system has hurt his standing as one of the top goalies in the league. With the Leafs unlikely to learn it’s the system rather than the goalie causing the problems I would not be surprised to see Andersen on the free-agent market next summer. With a career record of 213-92-45, a goals against of 2.63 and a .917 save percentage Andersen would be a great replacement for Rask. With the Bruins more defensive system and superior defensive unit Andersen could return to his form from the Ducks or be even better.
I’m not going to include Halak as an option. He is already about to turn 35 in May and will likely be looking for his last contract this summer. That leaves the Bruins top prospects in Daniel Vlader and the newly signed Jeremy Swayman.
Daniel Vlader is in the last year of his entry-level contract and could be the backup to Rask next season. Vlader was a 2015 third-round pick, number 75 overall, and has been honing his craft in the AHL the last few seasons. Daniel was actually ranked as the second-best European goalie in his draft class by NHL central scouting.
Vlader has consistently improved with each season he has played, culminating in an absolutely dominant season this year. After an early-season ankle injury, Vlader used the recovery time to hit the film room and with his coaches fine-tune his movements in net. In 25 AHL games Vlader has a 1.79 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. At this point if Halak is not brought back the backup job looks like Vlader’s to lose.
Jeremy Swayman might have something to say about that. The Bruins just signed the 2017 4th round pick to his entry-level contract after an impressive NCAA season at the University of Maine. Like Vlader, Swayman has been improving consistently over the last few years leading to his breakout this year. In 34 NCAA games Swayman has a 2.06 goals against and a .939 save percentage, both very impressive numbers. Jeremy has already won Hockey East player of the year and Hockey east goalie of the year. Swayman was also named as a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, given to the best college hockey player. With previous winners like Cale Makar, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau it shows the talent this young goalie has. Swayman will spend some time in the AHL to adjust to the pro game, so while he won’t be an immediate replacement for Rask he could factor into the team’s plans very soon.
Replacing a player like Rask is never easy, especially at such an important position. Over the last ten years Rask has been the number one goalie in terms of goals against and save percentage. His 291 career wins put him first in Bruin’s history by 39 wins over Tiny Thompson. Rask is also first in Bruin’s history for career save percentage at .922. If Rask does choose to walk away it will leave a huge hole on the team one that no single player can hope to fill. Any of the above-mentioned players would be a good fit, but none alone will match the impact Rask had on this team. The development of Vladar and Swayman could make or break the future championship aspirations of this team. With that in mind bringing in the right combination of players to assist in their growth is going to be the main focus of the franchise moving forward.
Featured image courtesy of Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports.