NHL Free Agents: 5 Teams That Should Go Hard After Tuukka Rask

Ben TaylorContributor IIIFebruary 9, 2012

NHL Free Agents: 5 Teams That Should Go Hard After Tuukka Rask

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    Tuukka Rask may be the best goaltender in the NHL that only a few have heard about. As the Boston Bruins’ backup to Tim Thomas, Rask has put together an outstanding season.

    Aside from an 11-6-2 record, Rask has posted three shutouts, a 1.88 GAA and a save percentage of .936. With those numbers, after this season he will be a heavily sought after free agent.

    However, Rask’s situation is complicated because he is a restricted free agent.

    So, any team that wants Rask’s services must sign him to a large enough offer sheet that the Bruins will not be inclined to match.

    With that in mind, here are five teams whose need at goaltender should lead them to take a serious run at Rask:

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    As the worst team in the NHL, there are a multitude of reasons why the Blue Jackets top the list of potential Rask suitors.

    For starters, despite his Calder Trophy winning 2008-2009 season, Steve Mason is no longer the answer in net. In 27 games this year he has a 3.53 GAA, a save percentage of .881 and is now giving up starts to Curtis Sanford.

    Much like the rest of his team, Mason has not performed well in 2011-2012.

    Secondly, believing that Mason would be their netminder for many years, Columbus has not stocked their organization with any NHL-ready goaltending prospects. Obtaining a player who can control the crease is the definition of what Columbus needs.

    With that being the case, Rask should be in the minds of the Blue Jackets front office when free agency begins.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Tamba Bay is Columbus’ competition when it comes to the team that most needs Rask’s services. The recent improvement of Mathieu Gairon aside, he and Dwayne Roloson have combined for a 3.33 GAA and a .889 save percentage this season.

    Those numbers make the Lightning the worst team in the league between the pipes.

    If Rask came to Tampa Bay he could provide goaltending stability for a team that last year was one win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

    With the trio of Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis they clearly have the firepower to put the puck in the opposing team’s net. With Rask, they would sign someone who could keep it out of their own.  

Edmonton Oilers

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    If the Oilers are serious about turning themselves into contenders they have to make an effort to sign Rask. Edmonton has talent in other areas, but to become consistent winners they need someone who can consistently stop the puck.

    This season the tandem of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk has produced average results. The two have combined for a .907 save percentage and 2.91 goals against per game.

    Those are not terrible numbers, but they need to be better for Edmonton to be a playoff team.

    With the abilities of young players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, Edmonton could really strengthen their team by adding Rask.

    If the 25-year-old Dubnyk builds off his recent solid play, the Oilers may not need to make the move as he could be the goalie of the future.  Even then, though, Rask would still be worth serious thought as they could enter next year with multiple goaltending options.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Blackhawks are currently in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture. However, goaltending is certainly not one of the reasons for that.

    Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have been the weakest links on an otherwise solid hockey team.

    Of the top eight teams in the conference, Chicago averages the most goals against per game and has the worst save percentage. In fact, the Columbus Blue Jackets are the only team in the West that is statistically worse in net than the Blackhawks.

    If Chicago can somehow deal with Crawford, who is signed through 2013-2014, they should consider a strong push for Rask.

New Jersey Devils

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    At the end of the 2011-2012 season the New Jersey Devils must make a difficult choice. They must decide whether or not to re-sign Martin Brodeur, the best goaltender in organization history.

    Brodeur will turn 40 before the start of the 2012-2013 campaign and while his age has gone up, his body and production have declined.

    If the Devils choose to sever their ties with him, then they should have the cap space for a run at Rask.

    It will be difficult for anyone to play between the pipes in New Jersey after Brodeur, but Rask has already performed under a certain amount of pressure. His success has come in a Boston market that is regarded as one of the most intense in the league.