MIDDLETON — On the eve of what could be a very big day for the Bruins, the club is at the center of much speculation on both the trade and free agent markets. A name constantly bandied about the last couple of years has been that of goaltender Tuukka Rask. But in his first public…Tuukka Rask wants to remain a Bruin — Boston Herald
MIDDLETON — On the eve of what could be a very big day for the Bruins, the club is at the center of much speculation on both the trade and free agent markets. A name constantly bandied about the last couple of years has been that of goaltender Tuukka Rask.
But in his first public comments since departing the Toronto bubble in the first round of the playoff Aug. 15, Rask made it clear that he doesn’t want to go anywhere. And in light of Don Sweeney’s recent public comments, in which he said that he has “zero reservations” about his goaltending tandem of Rask and Jaroslav Halak, he’s not concerned about getting traded.
“I think Sweeney came out and said that’s not going to happen,” said Rask in a brief interview with the Herald before golfing in the Shawn Thornton’s Putts and Punches tournament at Ferncroft Country Club. “I don’t want to play for anybody else but the Bruins.”
But things can change, especially in this volatile financial climate in which hockey finds itself along with the rest of the business world. There’s no telling if a deal comes across Sweeney’s desk that he must consider.
While the 33-year-old Rask didn’t come out and say he’d simply retire if traded – a declaration that would effectively squash any deal — it certainly sounds like any team that might acquire him would not be getting the happiest of campers.
“I don’t see any reason for that,” said Rask, who does not have full trade protection. “I’ve been here for a long time and the organization’s been so great for me. We’ve built our home in Boston and we call this home. So, yeah, I don’t want to play for anybody else. I think where my head’s at is focusing on next year and then hopefully a couple of more years after that and then pass the torch for the next guy after that. I want to help the organization as much as I can.”
As far as a possible extension with the Bruins goes, Rask said that discussion hasn’t happened yet.
“They have so much on their plate right now with the draft and everything, we’re just trying to get the next season going and get back to somewhat normal and then we can talk extension later. I still have one more year left. There’s no rush. But like I said, I don’t want to go anywhere else. I want to finish my career here,” said Rask.
Chances are that none of this trade speculation would be happening had he not left the bubble. But without detailing the emergency that brought him back home to Boston, Rask, the father of three girls, said he has no second thoughts about his decision.
“I got a phone call from my wife and my daughter was in a state that she needed medical attention and she wasn’t doing well. At that point, I had no choice but to go home. It’s as simple as that,” said Rask. “If you get a phone call wherever you are, like I did, it’s a pretty easy decision. What bothered me a little bit was people thinking that I just left because I didn’t like it there. I’m not going to lie to to you, (the bubble) was awful. But if I didn’t have a reason to leave, I wouldn’t have left, obviously. There’s that. But my daughter’s fine now, the family”s good, and it made me feel good. When I got home, they were happy to have me home and things got back to normal pretty quickly, so I knew that I made the right decision. It had nothing to do with hockey or the bubble. It was just the fact that I had to make that decision and I stand by it.”
Rask said there wasn’t much thought about returning to the bubble at that point. He would have had to quarantine for two weeks, but he said there was more to it than that.
“The whole thing was about the unknown,” said Rask. “It’s different when you’re going away for two weeks and you can tell your daughter that Daddy’s going to be home in two weeks. But if you’re like ‘listen, I don’t know when I’m going to be home,’ if that starts affecting her mental health or physical health, then I don’t think it’s good for anybody. That was that.”
Despite being recognized as one of the best goalies in the league – he finished second in Vezina Trophy voting in 2019-20 – Rask has long been a lightning rod for criticism, whether it be for not delivering a championship, for asking for a two-game leave of absence two years ago, for being ill for the final game of the regular season in 2016, for whatever.
But Rask has always been able to at least seem unaffected by it, and he was not overly concerned about fan reaction when hockey does returns.
“Everybody who has talked to me has been very supportive,” said Rask. “We’re professional athletes, but we also have families and we’re normal guys. It’s such a special time in the world for anybody right now that I don’t think you need to be judged as you normally would be. It doesn’t matter, because I know that I made the right decision and I know my family is well right now, and that’s all that matters. And any dad or any mother gets the same phone call I did, if they wouldn’t make the same decision I made, then they’d probably have to live with that consequence. I wouldn’t want to do that. I’d rather get the chirps or whatnot, but my family knows I made the right decision and that’s all the matters to me.”
Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes, if they want to trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, must do so by Friday, a deadline imposed by the no-movement clause-toting player. The B’s are one of two teams to whom Ekman-Larsson has agreed to be traded (Vancouver is the other). So far, the ask has been such that no deal has been consummated. Ekman-Larsson has seven years left on a deal that would pay him an average of $8.2 million annually, another major sticking point.
The free agent market is greatly expanded with teams buying out and not qualifying legitimate NHLers. Forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Duclair have been added to a crop that already included forwards Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman and Tyler Toffoli and defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and the B’s very own Torey Krug. It should make for a very interesting weekend.