Bruins building around Rask as franchise player

Bruins building around Rask as franchise player
July 11, 2013, 10:15 pm
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WILMINGTON – The Boston Bruins and Tuukka Rask formally announced their eight-year commitment for $56 million with a conference call on Thursday afternoon. It essentially amounted to a proclamation the Bruins goalie is one of the players Boston will be building around for the next decade, and that Rask is an “elite” goaltender among the best in the NHL.

With Zdeno Chara turning 37 next season and considerable turnover on the roster with the subtraction of Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley, Andrew Ference and Tyler Seguin for next season, the Bruins needed to decide how best to mold their team. It’s clear that it will continue to be based on defense and goaltending foremost, and that the 26-year-old Rask is at the heart of that commitment as the player with the highest cap hit on the team at $7 million per season.

“He’s still very young for a goaltender, actually, but he's really starting to reach his prime,” said Peter Chiarelli. “There will be only better things that will happen for him and the Bruins for years to come"

The $56 million contract is slightly less than the deals forked out to Roberto Luongo ($64 million) and Jonathan Quick ($58 million), but it ties Rask with Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne for the top cap hit for an NHL goaltender at $7 million per season.

None of that is going to change the way Rask goes about his business, however.

“I was reading in the Finnish papers about how things are going to be looked at differently now because I’m making a lot of money, but it won’t be any different from my end,” said Rask. “I’m still working hard on going out every game trying to prove that I’m the best, and that would be the same whether I’m making $1 million, $4 million, $7 million or $10 million a year.”

Clearly that may change moving forward with a salary cap that’s expected to steadily rise over the next eight years, but right now Rask is a franchise guy that Boston is pinning all its hopes, dreams and aspirations on for the long term. It’s not really a shocker given that Rask is coming off a season where he signed a one-year deal for less than $4 million that essentially served as a “show me” contract for a bigger, better deal.

Rask then went out and put up a 2.00 goals against average and a .929 save percentage along with 5 shutouts that put him among the top five in Vezina Trophy voting, and followed that up with a .940 save percentage while outplaying James Reimer, Henrik Lundqvist and Tomas Vokoun in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

The 53-save performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was one of the games standing apart as a turning point in the way everybody perceived the Bruins goalies.

It’s games like in the postseason that earn players big money and long term with a team, and Rask gets both of those for an organization that he’s loved and respected from the day he joined up.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to improve, and to bringing the Cup back to Boston, where it belongs,” said Rask. “I’ve been really lucky to play on some great teams, to make a lot of great friends while I’ve been doing it and to have had a lot of fun along the way. I’m just going to continue to try to keep doing all of the things that have got me to this point.”

Clearly there are some lengthy goalie contracts that haven’t worked out all that well: Luongo, Rick DiPietro and Ilya Bryzgalov immediately come to mind after those long term agreements blew up in the faces of the GMs that signed them to big money deals. But Luongo is the only one of those goalies that has ever taken his team to the Stanley Cup Final while truly performing well in the postseason, and – perhaps by no coincidence – he’s the only one of those three that’s still going to be stopping for pucks for that team next season in Vancouver.

There may be ups and downs throughout the course of an eight-year deal and perhaps there will even be a bad season or two given the maximum length of the deal under the current terms of the CBA.

But Rask has also been among the top four goalies in the NHL in each of his two full seasons over the last four years, is a former first round pick considered one of the elite talents in the world and has now proven himself to be a formidable playoff goaltender.

Those kinds of young, motivated big game goaltenders don’t exactly grow on trees, and the Bruins are paying market value to make sure the impactful position between the pipes is covered for a long time to come.