By Allan Muir
It didn’t take long for the Boston Bruins to place their faith in Tuukka Rask.
Just one year after Rask stepped into Tim Thomas’ skates and took over as the team’s No. 1 goaltender, Rask and the Bruins have agreed on an eight-year deal worth $56 million.
The Average Annual Value of $7 million per year ties Rask with fellow Finn Pekka Rinne for the highest cap hit among goaltenders.
And that has heads spinning.
Sure, Rask was one of the league’s elite stoppers this season with a 19-10-5 record, a 2.00 GAA and a .929 save percentage. He topped those numbers in the playoffs, winning 14 games and posting a league-best .940 save percentage and a 1.88 GAA. If the Bruins had upset the Blackhawks in the Final, he probably would have gone home with the Conn Smythe.
But that’s a big if. And that’s the big problem.
Is this too much, too soon for Rask? No doubt about it. This is the deal you hand to a goalie who already has a Vezina or two gleaming on the mantle. A perennial All-Star. A serial breaker of shooter’s hearts.
Not someone who could be those things. Someone who is.
But what else could Boston GM Peter Chiarelli do? Rask was coming off a one-year extension, a show-me deal that paid him $3.5 million while giving him the chance to prove he was a true No. 1.
Can’t say he didn’t keep up his end of the bargain.
That’s why you won’t hear many complaints about the cap hit, even though it likely means another member of Boston’s Stanley Cup core–possibly center Chris Kelly–will have to be dealt this summer to clear some space to make room for this deal and the similarly Kaiju-sized contract that should be announced any day now for Patrice Bergeron.
No, the problem is the term. Eight years. Eight loooong years. Exactly the kind of contract NHL teams spent the last week or two buying out.
So Boston fans will moan about being joined at the hip to a goalie who will be 34 when this deal is over. But this wasn’t going to end any better for the Bruins. Rask had them over a barrel. He was arbitration eligible, and with the case he could have brought to the table he might have ended up with an even greater award than $7 million. That would have put the cap-strapped Bruins in a very difficult position.
And playing hardball was out of the question. There may be a glut of goaltenders on the market, but there isn’t a glut of free agent world-class keepers in their prime. If Boston didn’t come up with a deal like this, there’s a good chance another team would have swooped in with an offer sheet that would have given him as much, if not more.
No doubt it made GM Peter Chiarelli swallow hard, but these days, deals that make you swallow hard are the price of doing business. Now the Boston Bruins are set in goal into the next decade. And security like that doesn’t come cheap.
Oh, and before anyone suggests this means 2012 first rounder Malcolm Subban is up for grabs, forget it. He’s more valuable to the Bruins than he is as an asset on the open market. And Rask himself illustrates the value of goaltending redundancies. The Bruins acquired him back in 2006 when it looked like Tim Thomas and Hannu Toivonen would man the pipes indefinitely. Rask went to Providence, quietly refined his craft and was ready when an opportunity came.
Subban is just 19. His time will come, too. And if he does his job well a paycheck like Rask’s just might come with it.