STAMFORD, Conn. — Charlie McAvoy said he’s excited to see the future take shape in goal with the Boston Bruins.
“It’s a luxurious problem to have,” the Bruins defenseman said at the Smashfest Charity Ping-Pong Challenge on Aug. 12. “We have great depth at the goalie position.”
Boston will have 22-year-old rookie Jeremy Swayman and 28-year-old Linus Ullmark splitting goaltending duties to begin this season. Ullmark agreed to a four-year contract on July 28, a move necessitated when it was learned that unrestricted free agent Tuukka Rask required hip surgery because of a torn labrum and will be out until at least January.
With Rask injured and Jaroslav Halak on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list from April 5-17, Swayman was 7-3-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games. He eventually passed Halak on the depth chart.
Halak signed a one-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks on July 28.
“We have Swayman and Ullmark, and Tuukka is rehabbing now … and we absolutely love ‘Tooks,'” McAvoy said. “I think he’s the best goaltender in the NHL. So if you’re able to bring him back into the fold, like I said, it’s a luxurious problem to have. I’m really excited to start the season [with the goalies we have] and then, you know, possibly get Tuukka back at some point.”
Swayman came in relief of Rask in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the New York Islanders last season; his only playoff appearance. He made two saves on three shots in the third period of a 5-4 loss. The Bruins lost the best-of-7 series in six games.
“He’s an awesome player,” Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton said of Swayman. “He’s young, he’s creative and he won some big games for us last year. We’re trying to help him the best we can and hopefully he continues to develop the way he has. Obviously, the signing of Ullmark will also help. I don’t know much about him but am excited to learn and we’ll see that duo go to work. It’ll be exciting.”
Ullmark was 9-6-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage for the Buffalo Sabres last season.
While the addition of Ullmark should help, the Bruins lost some offense when center David Krejci decided on July 30 not to play in the NHL this season and instead continue his hockey career in his native Czech Republic. The 35-year-old, who has scored 730 points (215 goals, 515 assists) in 15 seasons with the Bruins, is an unrestricted free agent.
“He’s been just a thrill to play with and has made me such a better player,” McAvoy said. “I’ve enjoyed every second sharing the ice with him. I’m very excited for him and his family … he’s going back to Czech Republic and it sounds as though this is exactly what he wants to do, and he deserves to do exactly what he wants to do.
“He’s had an unbelievable career, and I guess it’s still open-ended. Maybe we’ll see him again.”
The absence of Krejci will create a void at second- or third-line center.
“I think we’re all excited and ready to get to camp; excited with the new acquisitions and we obviously got our core group of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk back there,” Clifton said. “I think we just need to come in ready to go and continue to build our game.”
The Bruins signed forwards Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek each to a two-year contract and defenseman Derek Forbort to a three-year contract on July 28.
“It’s a good opportunity with a really good team,” Haula said while taking part in Da Beauty League on Aug. 9. “I take it as a chance to win and be in the mix and that’s always exciting.”
McAvoy became the leader of the Bruins defensemen last season after the departure of Zdeno Chara, who signed with the Washington Capitals after 14 seasons with the Bruins. The 23-year-old scored 30 points (five goals, 25 assists) and averaged 24:00 of ice time in 51 games, the most of his four NHL seasons. He also averaged an NHL career-high 2:24 in ice time while shorthanded.
“Everything we give him, he seems to excel at,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said in May. “Obviously he’s still a young guy in this League that’s only going to get better. Has a tremendous ceiling. Seems to get highly motivated for the bright lights.
“The thing that goes unnoticed with Charlie is he plays a lot of hard minutes and recovers well. He’s got a real good ability to sort of reset and get back out there. I don’t know if he’s got extra-large lungs or what.”
McAvoy said, “I’ve been in Boston this offseason, living there for the summer,” McAvoy said. “I’m able to work out, skate there … I have a great setup. I love where the team is at. I think we’ve made a lot of great additions this offseason and we’re really excited about it. I’m excited to meet those guys to be able to play with them.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Jessi Pierce contributed to this report