Chiarelli: 'Stage is set' for Rask to earn Bruins starting job

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Chiarelli: 'Stage is set' for Rask to earn Bruins starting job

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.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.