Options. Options. Options.
Thankfully, the Bruins have a lot of them — both internally and externally — when it comes to who will be tending goal for the Black N’ Gold in the 2021-2022 NHL season.
So far in our The Cup and the Crease series, we’ve explored a Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak “Overview” between the pipes. We’ve also examined the “Outlook” of Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar as the next promising puckstopper up.
Now, for Part III, let’s dive into the potential pool of free agency options for Boston in case GM Don Sweeney goes the route of adding an experienced veteran to “splits” time (as punfully, if not painfully, pictured above) with Swayman, or even Vladar, as many expect in the Hub of Hockey.
A Couple of “Caniacs”
While the Bruins made mincemeat of both of these goaltenders in last year’s bubble-laden first round playoff series against the Hurricanes (a 4-1 storming, if you will), Boston may explore adding either James Reimer OR Petr Mrazek to the crease this offseason from Carolina.
While Reimer’s career playing in Boston and against the Bruins has been nothing short of nightmarish as many of us can attest to (see above), he has both the experience as a backup netminder and/or platoon goalie pedigree that would make him attractive to share time with a Swayman or Vladar — just like he did in Carolina this past season with Mrazek.
Both goaltenders also have extensive time logged in net against Eastern Conference teams, as well as respectable GAA’s and Save Percentages for their entire careers — truly just percentage points apart. And they’re each cost effective for a team looking to move on from Halak’s similar $3M ballpark cap hit.
Personally, I think Reimer’s style, play and familiarity with sharing time with younger goaltenders makes him the better fit than Mrazek to come to Boston if the cards are right but then again, the B’s have a few more options to consider.
A Couple of “Beasts”
While the coyote and the sabre-toothed tiger, a true predator, didn’t really spend a lot of time together out in the wild, the Bruins could have one or the other spending a lot of time out on the ice for them next season.
That’s right, both Antti Raanta –an Arizona Coyote– and Pekka Rinne –a Nashville Predator– are on the market this Summer and Boston would be wise to entertain both “beasts” in the crease as viable options (take a look at them both in head-to-head action below).
Raanta has spent the majority of his career splitting time and backing up No. 1 goaltenders in first Chicago, then New York and most recently Arizona. Like Reimer and Mrazek, he has a similar GAA (2.46) and SV% (.919) for his career but only a modicum of playoff experience.
Rinne, on the other hand, is a bonafide all-star caliber crease-keeper who has spent his entire career in Nashville “tuning” crowds in to some impressive performances during the regular season AND playoffs.
The only thing missing from his historic hockey story is a Stanley Cup and the opportunity to win one with Boston, despite his age and drop-off in statistics once he gave way to Juuse Saros as the Preds main man, may be the perfect fit.
I could also see him bonding well with fellow Fin Tuukka Rask IF the Bruins were to resign him following surgery and wanting to have three viable options to ward off any injury concerns or setbacks between the pipes (though highly unlikely, it’s worth considering).
Sure the pandemic offered up a few different health-forward roster options for all teams that may not be around next year (i.e. carrying three goalies), but we saw how well the B’s managed not just Rask and Halak getting time in net but also Swayman and Vladar so that’s something to take into account moving forward with other names. Speaking of which…
A Couple of “Longshots”
Do I think either of these goaltenders will be coming to Boston? No. Should we puck prognosticate on them for the sake of entertaining online debate? Yes. In fact, I think it’s already started:
Indeed, Frederik Andersen could be a “hypothetical” choice to join the Bruins between the pipes this Fall. He’d cost way more than what Sweeney and Co. would ever want to pay for someone “sharing duties” with a younger goalie (about $2M more), but why not look at ALL options — even those who wear blue and white.
For the guy who wears red and white, Jonathan Bernier of the Red Wings, the cost would be much more on the level of a Reimer or Mrazek (and before that Halak) and would come with fewer expectations — both in terms of team role and number of games potentially played.
Like Rinne, Bernier has the longevity and experience to make the most of a secondary role in net to an up-and-coming goalie. But similarly, a recent decline in play could be of concern to the Bruins as they weigh that experience against a more consistently sound and sturdy netminder.
In short (and in summation), can the B’s find a Halak-esque or Halak-light goalie to share the net with Swayman for the first few months of the season until a more finite decision can be made on the health and playability of Rask?
And will any of the OPTIONS above fit into that role, or want to make a fit with Boston work, if it gave them a chance at legitimately contending for The Cup?
Those answers could be coming down Causeway soon, perhaps as soon as both drafts are complete by August. Until then, let the speculation continue and we’ll continue our The Cup and the Crease series with Part IV exploring the B’s prospect between-the-pipes pipeline to the NHL next!