The Boston Bruins are slowly starting to move their pieces around. Despite not knowing how exactly the salary cap for the 2020-21 season will look like, the Bruins know what they need to accomplish. If the salary cap remains flat at $81.5 million, the Bruins will have $20 million to work with for their free agents.
On Friday, the Bruins made their first move. Boston signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a one-year contract extension worth $2.25 million counting against the salary cap (and an additional $1.25 million in bonuses available for Halak). This extension might have popped up as a surprising one for many.
For the Bruins, to wait around and extend restricted free agents such as Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Anders Bjork, or Karson Kuhlman after the season is officially over seems logical. If the season resumes, any of these guys might still make an impression. However, that’s not the case with veterans like Halak, Zdeno Chara, or Torey Krug. Regardless of what happens if the season resumes, the Bruins know what they can get out of their veterans in the upcoming season.
With young goaltenders in the system, extending a veteran Slovakian netminder might be surprising. Nevertheless, it was Don Sweeney’s top priority. With signing Halak to a rather big two-year contract worth $2.75 million per season (a big move when you take that $7 million contract for Tuukka Rask under consideration), the Bruins set a new culture.
For Boston’s opponents, they could never smile when seeing that the Bruins’ No. 1 goaltender wasn’t starting. In fact, on many nights, Halak outplayed Rask. The Bruins created a pattern, and many teams soon started to copy their successful formula.
Rask played 70 games in the 2014-15 season but the Bruins missed the playoffs. He also played in another 64 games the following year, and the Bruins missed the postseason again. Sweeney decided to solve the issue by signing veteran goalie Anton Khudobin on a two-year deal in 2016. Rask played 65 games, and the Bruins would miss the playoffs again. Khudobin turned out to be massive in the winding moments of the season, helping the Bruins to make the playoffs three years later.
Khudobin was stellar in the 2017-18 season as he helped to provide a huge relief for Rask, who played in 54 contests. The Bruins made the playoffs easily. In 2018, Sweeney decided to bring in an even better goaltender than Khudobin. So far, the Bruins’ model has gathered all the hails across the League.
The Bruins could have perhaps used Halak’s money elsewhere and let a young netminder serve as Rask’s backup. Nonetheless, that would force Rask to play in at least 65 games in the regular season. His stats were not horrible when he appeared in 70 games once, but the Bruins never made the playoffs easily and contended for the Stanley Cup with such season.
For the Bruins, the stellar goaltending has been their key to success since 2017. Why change it while the Stanley Cup window is wide open? Rask and Halak both hav one more year under contract so don’t be surprised if the Bruins somehow allocated the money to keep both goalies in Boston beyond the 2020-21 season.
After all, this tandem is the best goaltending duo in the NHL.