Newly signed Linus Ullmark should split time with youngster Jeremy Swayman next season, while Tuukka Rask remains a mystery.
The Boston Bruins did not sign Linus Ullmark to a four year deal in which he is owed $5 million per year to be a backup.
Going into the offseason, many fans and pundits expected Boston to sign or trade for a goalie. The predicted purpose of that goalie would not be to lead the team in the Cup contention, but rather fill the gap while Tuukka Rask is out due to hip surgery, and then virtually disappear when he returned.
This goalie was supposed to be someone cheap. Also someone with experience who could help youngster Jeremy Swayman along. All of this of course was with Swayman as the envisioned future netminder of the Bruins.
Turns out though, GM Don Sweeney took a completely different route altogether, and one that frankly speaks volumes of where Tuukka Rask is at. With the kind of season that Ullmark had on a horrendous team last year (see below), the contract he was given, and the fact that he is right in his prime, he is by no means there to simply wait for Rask to return or hand the keys over to Swayman. He is in Boston to be the starter.
Now undoubtedly the Bruins know the potential that the 22 year old Swayman has to become an elite level NHL goalie (through ten games, he had a 1.50 GAA, and a .945 SV% while going 7-3). They also saw the season Carter Hart had in Philadelphia after pressure was increased on him. The bottom line is, there is no need to rush Swayman into being the full time starter.
At this point, going into the 2021-22 season, I just don't see many goaltending tandems in the NHL better than the Bruins one. The numbers (and win/loss record) Ullmark put up on a team that finished last in the league and with 15 wins in 56 games last season are truly stunning. It can only be imagined what will happen when he's got one of the better defensive teams in the game in front of him in Boston.
Paired with Swayman, this tandem has a ton of potential. It must be considered how games must be broken down though, and that circles back to Tuukka Rask.
With the Ullmark signing, I find it hard to believe that Rask will return to Boston, or to the NHL for that matter. If he was to return, that would force the Bruins to demote Swayman, something I don't envision them wanting to do unless he is really having a terrible season. It's possible, but seems unlikely.
At the moment, it looks like the Bruins are committing to Ullmark and Swayman leading them the whole way this coming season. From there, I'd imagine around 50-30 split, with Ullmark seeing the majority, although it is very likely Swayman appears more than that.
As far as the future goes, Ullmark is 27 years old, so will be 31 when his contract expires. As mentioned earlier Swayman is 22 years old. He has two seasons left on his entry level deal which pays him $925,000 per year. He will be 26 by the time Ullmark's contract expires, but if things go to plan should take over the starting role before then.
It must also be mentioned that Daniel Vladar was traded to the Calgary Flames for a third round pick. While it may seem like a somewhat minimal return, he had a one way contract, meaning that if the Bruins tried to send him down, he would have to clear waivers, which he most likely wouldn't. For that reason getting a third round pick is actually pretty good in comparison to losing him for nothing.
Overall, I think the Ullmark signing is a really good one for Boston. It's nice knowing that there is a veteran goalie in net who is actually better than a lot of other netminders out on the market. His presence is essential in making sure the Bruins don't immediately throw Swayman into the fire.
Despite the many question marks surrounding Tuukka Rask, it has been a productive offseason in regard to the Bruins netminders.