There are plenty of rumors circulating around the internet that Anton Khudobin will be testing out free agency. Those rumors are indicating that Khudobin wants between somewhere around $5 million over 2 years, which is very reasonable for a backup who won plenty of games last season and did his job well.
Chatter now, early afternoon Monday, is that odds running distinctly against Khudobin returning to Bruins. The risks of the 'talk" period.— Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) June 25, 2018
With the Bruins in pursuit of John Tavares, it seems likely that Khudobin may not return. So, who are Boston’s other options to backup Tuukka Rask?
According to The Athletic’s Craig Custance, the Bruins (along with many other teams) have interest in free agent Carter Hutton.
Hutton is 32 years old and has a 6’1 frame and is an athletic goaltender who likes to slow things down and force the opposing team to play on his terms, not theirs. Over the past two seasons in St. Louis, Hutton has averaged about 31 games played. During the 2017-18 season, he started about 26 games and averaged a .931 SV% and 2.09 GAA with 3 shutouts. If we’re looking at career numbers for Hutton vs. Khudobin, they’re very similar. In 138 GP, Hutton has a .915 SV% and a 2.42 GAA. In 147 GP, Khudobin has a .915 SV% and a 2.47 GAA.
An X-Factor is Hutton’s stone cold demeanor. Having a calm demeanor as a goalie is vital. If Hutton were to have to step in and play some games for Tuukka Rask, he’d be able to handle it without any issue. Hutton was actually put in a lot while Jake Allen was in a slump and proved that he can be relied on if it came to it.
He can 100% be relied on to backup Tuukka Rask and Bruins fans shouldn’t be worried about potentially signing him over Khudobin. If the B’s can sign Hutton for less than they can sign Khudobin? I say they have to go for it.
I’ll be honest, Robin Lehner isn’t a guy i’m a huge fan of. He hasn’t played that well in Buffalo but that could also be due to the fact the team in front of him hasn't been good in years. He started about 50 games last season and had a GAA of 3.01 with a SV% of .908.
You may be asking why I’m including a starting goaltender in the Bruins backup conversation. I’ll answer that for you right now, I like kicking the tires. Lehner is a young guy (age 24) with tremendous upside. Yes, he’s a starting goaltender right now (and quite frankly, he isn’t great) but I think he’d make a very solid backup.
It seems that the load of a starting goaltender isn’t best suited for him at the moment, so why not give him a shot at backing up Rask? He will certainly cost less than Anton Khudobin and he can put up good numbers in a backup role.
Lehner is a big guy, 6’4, 245 pounds. He covers a lot of net to say the least. He’s combative and moves very well in the crease because of his quickness and agility. He needs to improve his rebound control but that can be worked on. He’s very talented and very competitive. He could make a great back up, why not give it a gamble for cheap?
Jonathan Bernier could possibly be a nice backup for Rask. He was alright last season, posting a 2.85 GAA and a .913 SV%. And, since he’s generated almost no noise from anybody, could be a nice, cheap option for a redemption story.
Bernier usually has great positioning in net and sports extremely good reflexes which help him make difficult saves in the crease. Although Bernier is a pretty agile goaltender, he lets in quite a few bad goals. He tends to lack consistency, which is a concern for someone who could potentially backup Tuukka Rask.
He’s somewhat injury prone, but he played an important role with the Avs during the 2017-18 season racking up a 19-13-3 record, which isn't bad at all for someone who had to step in for an injured Semyon Varlamov.
Bernier is alright, he’s not terrible. Theres better options than Bernier on the market. If it were me, Bernier is one of the last backups i’d be looking into at the moment.
Zane McIntyre would love to get the job backing up Tuukka Rask. Problem is, he either has to prove everything up to this point was a fluke...or he’s not the answer.
In three game starts in the NHL, McIntyre has yet to solidify a win, posting a 3.97 GAA and a .858 SV% through 8 games played in his short NHL career thus far.
Through the 2017-18 AHL season, McIntyre posted a 2.52 GAA and .914 SV%, those aren’t numbers you want to see from an AHL goalie looking to make the jump to backup Tuukka Rask next season. In my opinion, i’d like to see better numbers from McIntyre before he makes the jump to the NHL. We all know he has it in him to be a great goalie, it could take another year or two for him to be able to backup Rask.
Remember though Bruins fans, we must wait it out with McIntyre. We didn't with Malcolm Subban...and now he’s playing pretty well for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Zane needs to become more consistent before making the jump to NHL action and he also needs to work on his confidence. If he does that we could see him in Boston in a few years. Right not though, I picture him returning to the Providence Bruins next season.
Now I didn’t want to make this piece too long so I’ll include the names of some other free agent goalies the Bruins could pursue below.
Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Petr Mrazek, and Ondrej Pavelec could all be suitors for the Bruins backup position. Some solidly better....some not.
In my eyes though, the best free agent goalies on the market right now are Carter Hutton and Anton Khudobin. Those guys will probably be getting paid this summer which will make the Bruins have to turn to a guy like Jonathan Bernier if they can’t (or won’t) give Khudobin what he wants.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens thats for sure. It’s all going to come down to if the Bruins can land John Tavares or not. That determines how much cap space the Bruins will have to sign a backup for Rask.