Earth-shattering news came out of TSN insider Frank Seravalli’s Twitter feed and the TSN Trade Bait chart earlier this week.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has been doing his job.
Seravalli wrote: “… multiple sources indicate that Bruins GM Don Sweeney has initiated conversations with teams about Rask’s market value over the last number of weeks.”
That’s right, the Bruins aren’t allergic to the idea of trading Tuukka Rask, the 33-year-old goaltender with a $7 million cap hit for one more season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the next NHL offseason (whenever that may be).
TSN’s latest trade bait board has Jake DeBrusk at #7 and Tuukka Rask at #10… pic.twitter.com/rZxkxiqxrT
— Alex (@bigbadbruins73) October 1, 2020
When you look at all the variables with Rask and the Bruins’ situation, Sweeney would be derelict in his duties as GM if he wasn’t open to moving Rask, or Jake DeBrusk or Brandon Carlo (as has been rumored lately), in an effort to improve the Bruins in the present and make their future stronger.
Let’s focus on Rask’s situation. With his league-leading goals-against average (2.25) and goals-saved-above average (22.51) Rask led the Bruins to the Presidents’ Trophy prior to the NHL’s Covid-19 pause. By all measures, he’s still a top-five goalie in the NHL and when it comes to goalies and Cup-hopeful teams, it’s usually best to stick with the one you have rather than experimenting with additions from outside the organization.
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But Rask is not untouchable or irreplaceable. Because in Sweeney’s unending attempt to keep the Bruins in contention both now and throughout the rest of this decade, a player one year from UFA status has a little less value. The Bruins have no veteran goalies signed beyond the 2020-21 season and no sure thing prospect coming up to be anointed the No. 1 when Rask and Jaroslav Halak are gone. Trading Rask now could give the Bruins a jump on making sure there’s a veteran goalie to push and mentor the likes of Dan Vladar or Jeremy Swayman while also acknowledging the days of the 60-start goalie are over.
The goalie trade and free-agent markets are flooded. But another team desperate to add an all-world goalie to add legitimacy to their team or push their roster closer to Cup-contender status could value Rask a little more than the Bruins. Vancouver, Edmonton, New Jersey, Buffalo, Chicago, and others have plenty of choices for goalie additions, but none of their choices would make their team better or allow them to better sell their odds of success to their fan base than Rask.
Meanwhile, that same buyer’s market for goalies could benefit the Bruins. They don’t have to get a goalie back in a Rask trade because they can turn to a UFA or another team with an available goalie for someone to pair with Halak. Jacob Markstrom and Braden Holtby are probably out of the Bruins’ range bases on the term and salary they’re expected to demand (although no one knows exactly where the COVID-era numbers are going to fall), but one has to wonder if Robin Lehner could be convinced to trade some AAV for term and give the Bruins a $4-5 million goalie for the next four or five years. Darcy Kuemper is signed for one more year than Rask. Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins are signed for two more years.
Without getting into specific returns for Rask, the Bruins could finally land a top-six wing to avoid being a one-line team. They could use some future assets as part of a package to get their next goalie, one that would definitely be around beyond 2021, or bulk up their defense. Even though we know there’d be a risk of a performance drop-off, it might be worth the risk that the Bruins would be better with whatever they got for Rask, plus whichever goalie they land would benefit from the Bruins’ defensive schemes and structure.
So don’t doubt that Sweeney has been weighing his options when it comes to Rask. And don’t think that trading Rask would put the Bruins on the road to a rebuild. As evidenced by the other rumors of the week, including the Bruins’ interest in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Sweeney clearly sees the need for a jolt that could get the Bruins over the hump before the rest of the core is imploded. That puts everything, including a Rask trade, rightfully on the table.