WILMINGTON, Mass. It can be rare that a player and professional hockey organization are 100-percent on the same page when it comes to contract time, but thats where the Bruins and Tuukka Rask find themselves.
Rask has agreed in principle on a one-year deal with the Bruins worth 3.5 million that gives the 25-year-old goaltender his big chance to prove that hes a starting NHL goaltender capable of surpassing 50 games played while remaining healthy and productive.
Rask has never played more than 45 games in a year, and he tired noticeably at the tail end of the playoffs in 2009-10, so the one-year deal was pursued by both the player and the Bruins. But that season Rask also led the NHL with a 1.97 goals against average and a .931 save percentage, and has shown glimpses of what can do when handed the starting gig.
Bs general manager Peter Chiarelli said that longer-term deals were never really discussed, and instead Rask wants to prove he can be the man before he gets paid like the man.
Look, 3.5 million isnt exactly chump change, but weve all seen the goaltending carousel of contracts thats been going on lately, said Chiarelli. He wants to prove that hes the No. 1 goalie for the Bruins for a long time. This was the easiest way to set the stage for that.
Hes been a really good goalie for us, but for one year he hasnt been the No. 1 goalie. The stage is set for him and well see where it takes us.
Instead Rask will prove to himself and the Bruins that his conditioning and health can stay intact with a full starters workload at the NHL level, and Chiarelli said that its the Bruins intention to extend Rask further when theyre allowed to on January 1. Theres always the Rask risk on a one-year deal that the CBA climate while change and he could go from RFA to UFA when the one-year deal expires after next season.
But Chiarelli said hes operating under a philosophy of keeping a Stanley Cup-winning team together rather than anticipating whats coming down the pipe when the next labor deal is settled. That also comes into play given the notion that Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Rask are all up for contracts after the 2012-13 season.
But the Bruins GM made no bones about his No. 1 priority with the Bruins: keeping his hockey club intact.
I think its a risk both sides are willing to take. In an ideal world this is a deal that we look to extend come January, said Chiarelli. There are seven or eight players up for contracts every year and I think thats a healthy cycle to go through. Believe it or not, Im trying to be cautious and Im trying to keep the team together.
I dont mind having a cluster of players that we need to make decisions on. We have a bunch of RFAs and well deal with them appropriately. It will be nice to see how the new CBA will work, and well know before we sign the restricted free agents.
The Bruins will officially announce the Rask signing on July 1, and Rask should officially be made available to describe his burning desire to prove he can be the man behind the mask in Boston.