By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
NHL goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s agent Alan Walsh tweeted out tonight that the Boston Bruins and his client will be parting ways by the time free agency kicks off on July 28th, 2021. Halak has spent the last three seasons in the Bruins organization posting a record of 49-23-14 with a 2.40 goals-against-average and .918 save percentage. The 36-year-old Czech Republic native and former William M. Jennings Trophy winner in 2019-21 with Boston alongside franchise leader Tuukka Rask will test the free-agent market in an effort to keep the dream alive as an aging veteran.
Jaroslav has been a solid soldier for the Boston organization since joining the team on July 1st, 2018, after he spent the previous fours years with the New York Islanders organization. The tandem of Rask and Halak was the prototypical 1A-1B that other NHL teams are thriving on, especially with aging veterans in the crease that work together. Halak pretty much saw the writing on the wall when he lost his backup job to a younger rookie in rising star Jeremey Swayman during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With the departure of Halak and the Rask surgery recovery that’s expected to have him miss at least the first five months of the 2021-22 regular season, it’s now pretty much speculative that the Boston team will look outside the organization for another veteran netminder. With the 2021 free-agent market very thin this summer, don’t expect this Bruins team to go out and sign a top-notch goaltender like Philip Grubauer but rather look at cheaper cap-friendly options for a year of service such as 39-year-old Mike Smith, who had a fantastic season later year with the Edmonton Oilers going 21-6-3 with a 2.31 GAA, and .923 Save%. It’s doubtful Smith becomes a free agent as rumors are out there that he could be returning to Edmonton for at least another season.
Another option is to look into the services of future NHL Hall of Fame goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who’s a free agent after spending a year with the Washington Capitals. He has had some health issues last year, which were heart-related, but if he’s willing and able health-wise to give another year a shot, he might accept a contract lower than what the Bruins were paying Halak. I believe the idea for the Bruins moving forward is to spend as much cap space as possible addressing the holes on the defensive and forward positions that desperately need upgrading. If Lundqvist would accept an offer of $1.5 million to the $2 million range, it leaves Boston management with the flexibility to address multiple areas outside the crease.
Obviously, it remains to be seen what the Bruins are going to do with starting goaltender Tuukka Rask moving forward, as he’s also slated to be an unrestricted free agent on July 28th. The 34-year-old Finnish native is just coming off an eight-year $56 million contract, and he won’t get close to the AAV he held throughout that contract if he’s retained. If the plan is to re-sign Rask to get him ready for a potential 2022 Stanley Cup Playoff run, he’ll need to come way down from what he made in previous seasons and, in my opinion, should only be offered a $3 million to $4 million offer. Moving forward with rookie goaltenders waiting in the wings, it would not be smart at this juncture to spend $10 million on a starter and backup in the crease while rebuilding or retooling on the fly.