Photo Credit: Len Redkoles (NHL via Getty Images)

By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow me on Twitter: @BostonDiGiorgio

The Boston Bruins are starting one of the most interesting off-seasons they’ve had in recent memory. Since the Bruins exited the NHL bubble, the rumors have been flying off the shelves. Torey Krug is all but gone, the Bruins have checked in on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jake DeBrusk could be a valuable trade target, and now, Tuukka Rask could be shopped.

A large portion of Bruins fans has unfairly judged Tuukka Rask since Tim Thomas left the team. The Vezina Trophy winner has carried the Bruins to countless playoffs and two Stanley Cups. Unfortunately, he has yet to win on his own, and his only ring was because of his predecessor Tim Thomas. He’s averaged a .922 save- percentage and 2.26 goals-against average in his 13-year career.

In this past playoff, he didn’t help his case when he chose to leave the NHL bubble for family reasons. There’s been speculation that he’s ruffled the feathers of the organization with this move, however, that would be an extremely unfair judgment for the Bruins to make. Any player had the right to choose whether he wanted to play or stay, though it seems the Bruins wished he went about it a different way.

Rask has one year left on his 8-year, $56M contract, and some wonder if he will retire once the deal is over. His decision to leave the bubble and this current contract has made General Manager Don Sweeney quietly gauge his trade value.

Tuukka Rask has a modified no-trade clause in his contract, which allows him to reject a trade depending on the team. The list that Rask sends to Sweeney consists of 15 teams in the league he would accept a trade to. If a general manager asks his player for the list, it could be only two things: 1. He is doing his due diligence and wants to ensure he contacts the right teams for potential negotiation. 2. He has an offer and wants to ensure Rask would accept the deal before he goes any further. Either way, Sweeney seems to be content with moving Rask, barring the return.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Bruins went through a revolving door of goalies. They employed Felix Potvin, John Grahame, and Byron Dafoe, all of which were serviceable, but not mainstay goaltenders. The Bruins didn’t have any goaltending prospects that were ever close to NHL-caliber talent. Rask was acquired in a deal that sent Rookie of the Year, Andrew Raycroft, to Toronto, and the Bruins never looked back. However, the Bruins finally have a few goaltending prospects ready to jump next year, which gives Sweeney future flexibility.

The Bruins have Jaroslav Halak under contract this season before he enters free agency. Halak took Rask’s spot in the bubble and played well. He was left out to dry in the Tampa series and likely would have suffered the same fate if the Bruins hadn’t given up at times. Halak can certainly play 40-45 games next season, and may even be their starter if Rask is dealt., which brings up two questions: where will Rask go, and what will his return yield?

The Colorado Avalanche has been thrown around as a perfect fit for Rask. They have the cap space and are one to two pieces away from a long playoff run. An Avalanche reporter addressed the Rask to Avalanche rumors with his own hypothetical return.

Adrian Dater (@adater) suggested returning their first-round pick (25th overall), Tyson Jost, and Nikita Zadorov for Tuukka Rask. The Bruins do not have a first-round pick this year after dealing it with Anaheim for Ondrej Kase. Jost is a 22-year old centerman who can also play the wing and his a restricted free agent. A former 10th overall pick in 2016, Jost ended the year with 23 points, mainly on the Avs’ third line. Jost could play the wing alongside Charlie Coyle on the third line or David Krejci’s wing.

Zadorov was also a former first-round selection in 2013 and a restricted free agent. He is a 6’6, 235-pound left-handed defensemen, who ended the year with 20 points. Acquiring Zadorov would give the Bruins another left-handed defenseman in Krug’s absence, though it would add to their penalty kill, not the power play. One thing missing from this return, however, is a goaltender. If the Bruins accept a deal similar to this, Bruins fans have to wonder who fills Rask’s shoes.

The goaltender free-agent market consists of big names: Braden Holtby, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Thomas Greiss. The Bruins could certainly sign one of these players, and depending on the deal, the Bruins could be staring at a new franchise goaltender.

Rask gives you the best option to win this year, especially with the Bruins’ core years dwindling. If the Bruins are forced to look to the free-agent market, they’d have to be almost certain they can sign one of the elite talents on the market.

Holtby and Fleury are proven winners but will have their hands full of offers. Lundqvist’s best years are behind him, and may serve as a back up to a guy like Robin Lehner in Vegas. If the Bruins receive the trade package that Dater suggested, it makes fans wonder if Sweeney is planning for the future, rather than going for it all now.

Now, if the Bruins trade Rask and receive a starting goaltender, fans will know Sweeney is going for it in the last years’ of the Bruins core. Fellow Black n Gold writer, Mike Cratty, suggested a deal building off of Dater’s return. Mike mentioned the Bruins trading Rask to the Avalanche for their first-round pick and Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer is a 28-year old netminder, who was traded to Colorado and Brooks Orpik for a second-round pick to Washington.

Braden Holtby largely overshadowed Grubauer’s time in Washington. Grubauer had a stellar end of the 2018 season, where he started the playoffs due to his torrid regular-season play. However, Holtby ended up playing the majority of the playoffs en route to their Stanley Cup win. Grubauer showed the league that he is capable of an NHL starting job. He was on his way to another long playoff run in the bubble until he was knocked out of the playoffs.

He has been ruled out indefinitely, so the Bruins would have to be sure he could begin playing sooner rather than later. If the Bruins accepted a deal similar to this, it would show Sweeney is not entering a rebuild, but rather taking advantage of players’ futures such as Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins would need to make a few more moves to make another long playoff run (acquiring a top-six forward and top-4 D).

Both trade scenarios are with the Avalanche, and no one knows if Rask would even accept a trade to Colorado. The two deals are suggestions by hockey writers, but they give NHL fans an idea of the direction the Bruins want to go in based on the return. The NHL draft begins October 6, and the free-agency period begins on October 9th. The Bruins will have their hands full of calls and decisions, and Sweeney will reveal the future of the Bruins in these subsequent moves.