Bruins Difficult Decision: Rask Played Injured, Wants to Return In January

Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tuukka Rask gave fans and the media a lot to digest on Friday when revealed that he played through a torn hip labrum this season that will require surgery. He gave a general timeline on his return, but noted he has no plans to play anywhere else. When asked if the injury would force him into retirement or whether or not he was looking at testing the market as a free agent, Rask responded, “I’m not going to play for anybody else but the Bruins. This is our home.”

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Rask said he wants to play next year — but will undergo surgery that will keep him out until January or February. He said, “Hopefully recovery goes well and I’ll be ready to play hockey at some point next year.” He added that mentally he’s up the challenge of returning but just isn’t sure if physically he’ll be able. He’ll find out throughout the recovery process.

What this means is that any rumors of Rask possibly signing with another team can stop and it also hints that he won’t be signing an extension with the Bruins until they know he’ll be ready to roll. It leaves the team with a bit of a dilemma because they’ll need to figured out their goalie tandem when the season begins and Rask won’t be ready for it. And, as strange as it sounds to say, they’ll need to decide if bringing Rask back is the right decision to make for the franchise.

Jeremy Swayman has emerged as a potential replacement for Rask, but the Bruins will need more than that. Rask may not be it. Despite the fact he played through an injury in the playoffs and still posted a .919 SV% and a 2.36 GAA, there’s been some criticism of Rask’s inconsistencies. When he’s on, he’s great. When he’s not, it feels like he’s ready to hang it up. There was speculation more might be going on and that he could be dealing with something, and the fact he’s confirmed it explains a lot about what fans saw this season from the veteran netminder.

Unfortunately, Rask is such a polarizing player in Boston, critiques of him have already moved from he’s not what he used to be, to he was selfish wanting to play when he knew he was hurt. It’s not a fair criticism, but it’s already out there, just hours after he spoke with the media.

What Will the Bruins Do?

If Rask is able to return, what is he looking for? Is this a season where he does a one-year low-cost contract to test out the hip and see where it goes from there? It’s not as though the Bruins can afford to invest a lot into him if the season is to run from October – April and he won’t be back until the midway point. That means sticking with Swayman and likely Jaroslav Halak (or a different 1B) and then playing it by ear.

Tuukka Rask to quit hockey?
Tuukka Rask to quit hockey?

Rask said, “I’m not going to play for anybody else but the Bruins. This is our home. We have three kids with friends in school. I don’t see any reason to go anywhere else at this point in my career.” As to what his role would be, he noted he doesn’t mind mentoring the young guys. “Any way I can be helpful for these young guys, I want to do it.”

There is the opportunity to prorate any contract he signs but Bruins fans won’t likely know a whole lot more until the start of the 2022 calendar. By then, who knows where a franchise who might be looking at some pretty big offseason changes will be.

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