We headed into the first day of free agency knowing that the Bruins kind of needed some help between the pipes, as it seemed a bit rash to hand the keys to Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar and say “good luck.”
However, I think most people assumed the B’s would sign a veteran goalie for relatively short money and short term, opting to give Swayman (the presumed heir) some support until Tuukka Rask eventually returned.
Instead, the B’s signed former Buffalo Sabre Linus Ullmark to a four-year deal with an AAV of $5 million, not a contract you give to a guy you view as a stop-gap.
After that, Vladar was traded to Calgary for a third-round pick, further altering the landscape in the Boston crease.
What will we see in the Boston net next season?
At this point, I think it’s fair to assume we’re looking at a Swayman-Ullmark (or Ullmark-Swayman) platoon.
Based on everything we saw from Swayman last year, many fans are ready to give him the bulk of the games; however, Ullmark’s deal makes me think the Bruins may want to ease Swayman into being the #1.
Perhaps we’ll see something like a 70/30 Ullmark/Swayman split this season, followed by a shrinking gap next season, etc.
Of course, all of this could change if one of them gets injured or if one truly grabs the job by the scruff of the neck and makes it his own.
Those details remain to be sorted out, but it looks like a pretty solid bet that we’ll see an Ullmark and Swayman tandem on Opening Night.
What does this mean for Tuukka Rask?
Right now? Not a ton. Bob McKenzie confirmed earlier that Rask had hip surgery recently, and faces a recovery time of 5-6 months; even in the best-case scenario, that puts him at a January return.
Given his age and the nature of his injury, something in February is probably more likely.
Sweeney was clear today that these moves don’t close the door on a Rask return, noting that he spoke to him today (likely either to check on how the surgery went or apprise him of the pending Ullmark move).
If Rask is ready to return in February, there’s little stopping the Bruins from signing him to a low AAV deal and getting him back in the mix; hell, they could be bold and go the Tampa route, signing him and then putting him on IR until the playoffs start (likely not a great idea since he’d need game time to get acclimated).
If, come next year, the Bruins and Rask deem it a good idea to get back together, the B’s would likely end up sending Swayman to Providence — he doesn’t require waivers.
However, it’s fair to wonder what happens to Rask if Swayman earns the starting job by then: you’re not likely to bury a $5 million in the press box to bring Rask back, are you?
Overall, I’d say the Ullmark move slightly lessens the odds of a Rask return, but not in a major way.
It wouldn’t be surprising to be sitting here with an Ullmark/Rask 1A/1B tandem.
Why was Dan Vladar traded?
While Vladar had good AHL numbers and acquitted himself well in his NHL appearances, he’d been surpassed by Swayman on the depth chart.
The B’s were always unlikely to head into the season with Swayman and Vladar as their goalies, given their relative inexperience and the “win now” nature of the rest of the roster.
Since Swayman is Prospect A and Ullmark is now Veteran Goalie A, there’s was no real room at the inn for Vladar.
The problem: Vladar is subject to waivers, putting the B’s in a bind. If he were to get cut from training camp, for example, another team would be able to snatch him up.
Given his AHL performance and NHL cameos, it’s likely that some team would have taken a no-risk flyer on him if he was on the waiver wire.
With that in mind, the B’s decided to get what they could for him in the form of a third-round pick.
Considering Vladar was a third-round pick himself, it’s kind of a wash, and a chance for Vladar to get playing time elsewhere.
What does this mean for the net in Providence?
With Vladar gone and Swayman seemingly destined for NHL duty, the Providence net certainly takes a bit of a hit.
However, the P-Bruins do still have Kyle Keyser in the mix, an exciting prospect in his own right.
With a full crease in front of him in Providence last season, Keyser spent most of the year with the Jacksonville Icemen of the ECHL (as you may remember, Atlanta elected to not play last season).
He did get a cup of coffee in Providence as well (5 games).
Prior to the rise of Swaymania, you could argue Keyser was the Bruins’ most exciting goalie prospect, putting up outstanding numbers for Oshawa.
For now, it looks like Keyser will likely assume the bulk of the games in Providence.
The Bruins also still have Callum Booth in the system (he received a qualifying offer), and signed Troy Grosenick to a two-way contract today.
Grosenick, 31, has some NHL experience (4 games), but has hundreds of games of AHL experience under his belt.
It appears likely that the AHL duties will be split between Keyser, Booth, and Grosenick, though there’s plenty of time for that to change.