It happens like clockwork every offseason, for every team that underperforms.
At some point, the media begins to ask questions about their goalie. It seems to be one of the recurring themes of any Bruins season...if the team play well, they play well...if they're struggling, there is bound to be someone on every message board who argues that "maybe it's time to trade Tuukka".
This offseason, though, it's a little more worrying than that. There is talk around the NHL media that the Boston Bruins front office just might be preparing to pull the trigger this time round, and toss out Tuukka. Release Rask. Say farewell to the Finnish Fury.
We at Chowder like trading superstars-and so do I. Remember when I tried to work out a deal that would bring PK Subban to Boston? Our deal ended up being B's first rounder, plus Jéremy Lauzon, plus one of the B's prospect forwards (for the sake of argument, let's say said forward was Jesse Gabrielle), plus an AHL forward like the sadly-departed Alex Khoklachev.
The ACTUAL trade for PK Subban, you may remember, was...uh...not as expensive as that. Or as beneficial to the Habs' chances...after all, imagine who they could have added to Mikhail Sergachev with that 14th pick this draft.
So, given that we've now proved we valued PK Subban more highly in a trade than the actual Canadiens did, we thought we'd put on our GM caps again...and imagine a deal that would see Tuukka take flight for pastures new.
However, because we're aware that the mere MENTION of trading a franchise goalie would likely cause ructions, we decided that this time round we'd use actual science and try to think like a GM.
First...we need to look at what we'd want in return. This is possibly the easiest answer going.
Let's get something very, VERY clear here. Anyone considering trading their franchise-keystone, Vezina Trophy-and-Stanley-Cup-winning starting NHL goalie needs to be damn sure how they're going to fill that gap. And the simple fact is...B's do not currently have a player within the system even close to stepping into Rask's skates. I mean...look.
Malcolm Subban - might be good down the line. Is he ready to be an NHL starter right now? No. Not close.
Zane McIntyre - has taken part in seven development camps and still not broken the NHL roster. Thanks but...we'll look elsewhere.
Daniel Vladar - yeah, no. Goalies coming out of the USHL and suddenly rocking the NHL is a fairytale even a movie would probably think twice at writing - and this is an art form that once had Jean-Claude Van Damme play for the Pens in a Stanley Cup Final (in "Sudden Death" as a cop who killed their starting goalie AND make a game saving stop (he also beat the hell out of Iceburgh in that movie, incidentally).
So...we're agreed that in any trade, we probably need a replacement for Tuukka. And because the idea of any NHL trade is to make your team better...we went looking for NHL goalies comparable to him.
We did this, very simply, by taking his average career save percentage in the NHL (92.4) and then, to give a bit of leeway, searching for every current active NHL goalie with a career save percentage above 92%, using hockey-reference.com
The list of goalies comparable to Rask currently active in the NHL when using this criteria is a very short one. Here it is.
Ben Bishop, Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, Carey Price, Cory Schneider, Cam Talbot, Petr Mrazek, John Gibson
That's it. That's the entire list.
So let's start eliminating targets. Mrazek and Gibson have both played less than 50 games in the NHL to this point...which means that, simply put, we don't want to hand them the keys. So they're gone.
The Rangers aren't trading Henrik Lundqvist for any price - another name done.
Cam Talbot...no. There is no universe on the planet in which a Cam Talbot for Tuukka Rask trade makes sense. Well, there is, but it involves the Oilers including Darnell Nurse, or Oscar Klefbom, or both. And while Peter Chiarelli would probably pay a kings' ransom for Rask and could probably be convinced to throw in names like Eberle, Klefbom, Nurse, or Nugent-Hopkins, it would still mean that the B's starting goalie would be Cam Talbot.
So we've now narrowed the possible goalies who would actually be an acceptable trade for Rask to...well, Cory Schneider, Ben Bishop, Carey Price and Braden Holtby.
Washington aren't trading Holtby for anything...because that would probably be one of the few moves on the planet more shocking than the Bruins pulling the trigger on Tuukka. Holtby's so safe in Washington they might as well hang his jersey on the White House steps. Plus...he's four years younger than Rask. He's such an asset even Marc Bergevin wouldn't consider trading him.
Carey Price, on the other hand...now there's a thought. After all, if the Habs are going to undersell PK Subban then all Bruins need to do is wait for Price to become the new franchise face of the team and donate a few million dollars to a children's hospital and by Marc Bergevin and Habs logic he's ripe for the picking.
But that's a little too long term for this article.
So we're down to two. Cory Schneider and Ben Bishop.
Schneider is a New England and indeed MA native (he was born in Marblehead) so he's got the "local boy" thing down pat. He's also paid $1.5 million dollars less than Rask and has, so far, played at a broadly comparable level in the NHL.
The thing is...Ray Shero, being Ray Shero, is going to demand the kind of kings' ransom from Boston that would probably see Don Sweeney give up Rask and several more pretty key pieces too. After all, this is a man who managed to get Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, for example. That, alone, leaves us a little leery, leaving aside the fact that Schneider posted decent numbers behind a poor team but was still not a significant upgrade on Rask.
So we're left with Ben Bishop. He's comparable to Rask, he's cheaper than Rask, Tampa want to trade him...
But the major reason Tampa want to trade him is because he's an UFA next year and also they have to expose a netminder in the upcoming expansion draft and risk losing them for nothing if they don't trade one. Tuukka is admittedly more expensive, but he's signed through the next five years. His contract is bang in the pay range of what Bishop can expect to earn in his next contract...along with the risk that contract negotiations may not work out.
On the positive side, that may give the B's leverage. After all, they're trading Tampa a franchise goalie for the next five years for one that may not last beyond next year. That is pretty potent ammunition to make it worth their while.
However...the trouble with this is - we're dealing with Steve Yzerman here. Steve Yzerman has not proven to be a foolish GM. Whilst Rask for Bishop would be full value straight up for Tampa, the Bruins would have to demand extra to make it worthwhile. Like...high draft picks or skill player level demands.
Say, players like Jonathan Drouin.
That's a price that Tampa are not likely to give up - they've not made it to where they are now by giving up stars for other stars, or indeed by trading hard for stars at all (don't forget Bishop was still fighting to break through with the Ottawa Senators when he became a Lightning player). The trade for Bishop, while not made by Yzerman, was in hindsight one of the greatest steals of the modern era-a 4th round pick and Cory Conacher (now playing in Switzerland) is an utterly obscene price-although it still doesn't quite match Raycroft-for-Rask. Yet.
So...let's review. Essentially, the only possible trade that the Bruins could actually have a chance of making that would see comparable value is for Ben Bishop, a player of comparable ability and the same age but with more contract uncertainty in his future...unless they can somehow coax more value and payment out of one of the most tenacious negotiators in the NHL. The only other alternative is by taking a downgrade in net with the hope of adding skill players around them from a former Bruins GM or MASSIVELY overpaying for an unproven netminder.
We started this article with a mission - to find out if there was any possibility of a fair trade for Tuukka Rask being made by the Bruins - one that would actually improve the team both now and in the future.
We end it concluding that this mission is one with no way to complete it...with even the best option to do so being one that would likely see the Bruins suffer in the short term even if they did manage to iron out any issues - or one that would see them having to take a downgrade in net.
That's pretty clear evidence that there is no way of trading Tuukka Rask that makes logical sense...none whatsoever.
Right now, a Rask trade shouldn't even be on Don Sweeney's mind, never mind being discussed in any serious form. It is folly.
There's simply no possible way it can benefit the Bruins to a level worthy of giving up their franchise goalie.
And that's a fact.