BOSTON – Tuukka Rask might have hit a bit of a rough patch at the end of the Stanley Cup Final by surrendering 11 goals in the final three games against the Blackhawks, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the Bruins goaltender is in line for a big payday this summer.
According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations between Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins, the six-year, $39 million contract the Canadiens gave Carey Price “is the starting point for negotiations” with Rask and agent Bill Zito. That means Rask will be commanding at least $6.5 million per season moving forward.
One has to wonder if Rask has it in mind that he wants to match or surpass the seven-year, $49 million contract signed by fellow Finnish goaltender Pekka Rinne with the Nashville Predators two summers ago. If he were to get that kind of deal with the Bruins, it would make him the only player on the team to receive more than the $6.9 million salary Zdeno Chara is set to make for each of the next four seasons.
A lucrative extension makes sense given Rask proved his worth as a No. 1 goaltender while finishing in the top five in goals against average (2.00) and save percentage (.929) during the regular season, and then helped carry the Bruins to within two wins of another Stanley Cup.
Price has a career .915 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average, while Rask has a career .927 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average. And Price’s playoff history pales in comparison to that of Rask, who has proven he can take a hockey club to the Stanley Cup Final while outplaying James Reimer, Henrik Lundqvist and Tomas Vokoun along the way.
“[I’m] really proud. I don’t think a lot of people expected us to go this far,” said Rask after Game 6 with the Blackhawks. “We shocked the hockey world beating Pittsburgh, and going to the Finals. I don’t know if we were a little shocked or not, but I’m definitely really proud of the guys and the effort they gave.”
The 26-year-old goaltender -- who was recently named to Finland's Olympic Camp roster -- would have been a favorite for the Conn Smythe had the Bruins won the Cup. Instead he must settle as one of the postseason’s best players with a 1.88 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.
Rask led the NHL playoff goaltending field in save percentage this spring, and was fourth in GAA behind Jonathan Quick, Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi. Both figures for Rask were better than the stats put up by Tim Thomas in his Cup-winning season of two years ago.
But the Finnish goalie doesn’t have the most important hardware that Thomas did have at the end: the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe.
Rask may be thinking a lot this summer about the five-hole goal surrendered to Jonathan Toews in the second period of Game 6’s 3-2 loss, and then the game-tying goal by Bryan Bickell that also beat him five-hole in the third period. Both of those scores happened with Boston’s top defensemen pairing of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on the ice so there’s plenty of quick and dirty blame to go around in defeat.
But Bruins wouldn’t have been in the Cup Finals without Rask’s consistent brilliance along the way. The goalie was looking at things from a pretty calm, detached standpoint after the game, and pointed out that the Bruins were victims of the same kind of third-period meltdown that gave them life in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs.
“We’ve done it to somebody else, so we got to feel how it feels being on the other side. I guess we got a taste of our medicine there. This sucks,” said Rask, who made 29 saves in the Game 6. “This season we were known to lose a couple of leads, even in the regular season we were up by goals and we lost the games. I guess that sums it up pretty good.
“It was fun. It was a great run. I had a lot of fun. It’s great to play with guys like this. We tried to have a lot of fun out there and play hard every night. We made it a great run. Too bad we just couldn’t finish it off.”
Rask was upfront about the contractual importance of his 2013 season, and knew that his one-year deal going into the shortened year was a “prove it” audition for No. 1 goaltender term and money. The Boston netminder took up his end of the bargain by backstopping the Bruins through a solid regular season where Rask was consistently one of the B’s best players, and he elevated his game to a whole different level in the postseason.
The Bruins are also focused on getting Patrice Bergeron a new deal, but there seems to be little doubt Rask will receive a contract from the Bruins befitting a franchise goaltender sooner rather than later.