Tuukka Rask said he intends to finish his NHL career with the Boston Bruins.
The 33-year-old goalie is in the final season of an eight-year, $56 million contract ($7 million average annual value) he signed with the Bruins on July 10, 2013. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
“I have no intention to play anywhere else than the Bruins,” Rask said Wednesday. “So if I’m good enough to play one, two, three more years, then so be it. If not, then so be it. So that’s where my head’s at.”
Rask said that he is not bothered by entering the season unsigned beyond this year, especially given the situation with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything’s kind of upside down in the hockey world and I’m sure [general manager Don Sweeney] has a lot on his plate right now,” he said. “My contract situation is probably not on top of his list at the moment.
“I’m comfortable where we are right now. I just want to go out there and start the season off right and get on a good groove and play good hockey, personally and as a team, and then if the contract talks happen during the season, then so be it. If they don’t, then we’ll just wait it out and see what happens.”
Rask was 26-8-6 last season with an NHL-leading 2.12 goals-against average (minimum 20 games) and .929 save percentage, which was second under the same parameters, and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL.
He entered the Toronto bubble for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the best record in the regular season, but decided to opt out less than two hours before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I got a phone call the night before that our daughter wasn’t doing so well at that point,” Rask said. “They had to call an ambulance and everything. So obviously at that point my mind’s spinning. I’m like, I need to get out of here.”
He informed Sweeney the next morning and returned to Boston, where he remained through the offseason.
“Obviously, it was a tough decision to leave, but then again, it wasn’t, because I knew that it was more important for me to be at home at that time,” Rask said. “So that was easy to live with.”
Although Rask said he spoke with Jaroslav Halak, who replaced him as the starter, and other teammates, who reassured him and gave him their support, he did find it tough to watch the rest of the Bruins games in the playoffs knowing that “you could be there, you should be there, playing hockey.”
Boston defeated Carolina before losing in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
Following Rask’s departure from the bubble, there were reports that the Bruins could be exploring trade options for the goalie. Asked if he ever felt that his future in Boston was uncertain, Rask said only, “Nope.”
This season, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said that Rask and Halak are expected to split the goaltending duties again as the 1A/1B tandem they formed the previous two seasons, with Rask getting about 60 percent of the starts.
Boston, which will play in the MassMutual East Division, opens its season at the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 14.
“The good news is there’s not a lot of travel, so that can help a goaltender recover,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “So that might edge his games up. So that’s our original plan. We’re not going to deviate too much from that number, percentage-wise, whether it’s 56 (games) or 82.
“We could get into the middle of March, not be where we want to be, and need more starts from one of the two goalies. We’ll adjust accordingly but that’s the original plan.”
Rask has played his entire NHL career for the Bruins since being acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 24, 2006. He is Boston’s leader in games played among goalies (536), wins (291) and save percentage (.922), and second in GAA (2.26; Tiny Thompson is first at 1.99).
Rask won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011, when he was the backup to Tim Thomas, and since becoming the starter in 2012-13, he has helped lead them back to the Cup Final twice (2013, 2019).