Tuukka Rask said he could be ready to return from hip surgery in late December, and when he does the unrestricted free agent goalie only wants to play for the Boston Bruins.
“I’ll be ready to go probably around Christmas time, January,” Rask told WEEI 93.7 FM on Wednesday. “So hopefully I can start skating here in a month and a half or so and then progress from there and be ready to go in January.”
The 34-year-old, who was expected to need 5-6 months to recover from offseason surgery, has played his entire NHL career with the Bruins, and said he doesn’t want to play anywhere else.
“I played with one team when I was in Finland (Ilves), I have been so lucky to be part of only one team in the NHL,” Rask said. “For me, it’s about that pride of playing for one team and one team only. I have no reason to chase the money anymore and go somewhere else. It’s going to be one of those things where the Bruins are my home, Boston is my home. I’ve always wanted to play here, wanted to stay here. So the money won’t be an issue. We had a conversation with [Bruins general manager Don Sweeney] and I will be a cheap goalie for them.”
Rask, who signed an eight-year, $56 million contract ($7 million average annual value) with the Bruins on July 10, 2013, was 15-5-2 with a 2.28 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 24 games last season. He is the Bruins all-time leader in wins (306) and is second in shutouts (52) behind Tiny Thompson (74).
“I would say I’m not looking for a $7 million contract anymore,” he said. “I just like to help the team out. I feel like I’m a veteran goalie and there are some young guys coming in, so whatever I can do to help the guys out I will do it and end my career as a Bruin.”
The Bruins plan to start the season with Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark as their goalies.
Swayman made his NHL debut April 6; the 22-year-old went 7-3-0 with a 1.50 GAA, .945 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games last season. Ullmark signed a four-year, $20 million contract ($5 million AAV) July 28; the 28-year-old was 9-6-3 with a 2.63 GAA and .917 save percentage in 20 games with the Buffalo Sabres.
Swayman played well enough to move past Jaroslav Halak on the depth chart to become Rask’s backup during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins lost to the New York Islanders in six games in the second round.
“He’s a great goalie, talented goalie and a great guy,” Rask said. “He’s super outgoing and nice. I had a luxury of knowing him last year a little bit, he was around. He’s got a great future ahead of him. Hopefully I can help him out.”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said that he is confident in Boston’s goalie situation.
“Ullmark’s been in the League, brought him over from Buffalo, we feel he can be a real good starter in this league,” he told WEEI on Tuesday. “And we’ve got Swayman, who came in at the end of the year and played like a starter. So you’ve got some young guys competing for the net every night, a couple of depth guys behind them (Troy Grosenick, Callum Booth), and then there’s the wild card with Tuukka. He had surgery, he’s rehabbing, will not be ready to play until well into February I would think or late January, somewhere in that timeline. So we’ll see where he fits and where his rehab goes and where he wants to play.”