Who Is Taking Bigger Risk with 1-Year Deal: Tuukka Rask or Boston Bruins?

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Goaltender Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on December 28, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Bruins defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

One of the expectations of the Boston Bruins this offseason was that they would sign young star Tuukka Rask to a long-term deal to be the starting goaltender of the future.

Instead, the Bruins were only able to sign Rask for one more season despite an attempt to lock up the 25-year-old for more years, according to Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe.

“A compromise,’’ Chiarelli characterized the one-year pact for Rask, who is projected as this season’s No. 1. “We tried to go longer in term, but . . . ’’

But Rask, represented by Chicago-based Bill Zito, clearly wanted a better payoff than, say, the three-year, $12 million that Cory Schneider inked in Vancouver. The guess here was that Rask would come in around a $4.3 million average over three years, with payouts of $3.3 million, $4.3 million, and $5.3 million. Now, with $3.5 million his base, both sides must wait until Jan. 1, 2013, if they want to add any term to the deal.

If Rask were to lead the Bruins to their second Stanley Cup championship in three years, he would become very expensive to re-sign after next season when he is set to be a restricted free agent again. Even if he doesn't lead the Bruins to a title, another good season would give him a lot of leverage in negotiations.

The Bruins do have strong goaltending depth in their organization following the first round selection of Malcolm Subban in June's NHL Draft, but Rask is the only netminder who's anywhere close to being capable of leading a title contender.

Another potential problem for the Bruins if Rask has another impressive season in net is the possibility of a team extending him an offer sheet if he wasn't re-signed by July 1, 2013.

Among the teams who are likely to have lots of salary cap space next season are the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rask was once part of the Leafs organization before being traded to the Bruins in 2006 for Andrew Raycroft, and there's no question that he would be the perfect franchise goaltender for Toronto. There aren't many young goaltenders as good as Rask, so the threat of an offer sheet is something to monitor.

General manager Peter Chiarelli was smart to not give Rask a rich, long-term contract before seeing if he could handle a starter's workload coming off an abdomen injury, but he's also taken a large risk.

If Rask had signed a deal comparable to what the Winnipeg Jets gave Ondrej Pavelec earlier this summer (5-year, $19.5 million), the Bruins would have locked up their goalie of the future for many years at a reasonable cap hit. A good season for Rask could see him earn a contract with a salary cap hit well over $5 million next season.

Perhaps the biggest risk Chiarelli is taking with this one-year deal is not having enough money to re-sign the team's plethora of free agents at the end of next season.

If Rask dominates this year and is worthy of a substantial raise, then the Bruins might have a more difficult time signing upcoming free agents Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference. All of these players are RFAs except Ference and Horton.

The Bruins want Rask to shine this year and prove he can be a star in this league, but be careful what you wish for. Another fine season for the Finnish netminder could result in the Bruins having to pay Rask much more than they would have if he was locked up long-term this offseason.

The decision to finalize a one-year deal was the smartest move both parties could make, but there's no question that the Bruins are the side taking the bigger risk.


Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and has covered the team firsthand since the 2010-11 season. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.