NHL Free Agents: 4 Best Options for Boston Bruins to Back Up Tuukka Rask
The Boston Bruins know that their starting goaltender for next season will be Tuukka Rask, but the backup goaltender role could change throughout the season depending on things like injuries.
First-round pick Malcolm Subban won't be the backup, or the starter, for a few years, so the Bruins need to find a veteran—or stick with Anton Khudobin—who is the only goaltender other than Rask on the team's depth chart.
Let's look at the four best options that the Bruins have to consider for their backup goaltender spot.
Khudobin is similar to former Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in that he's a bit small (only 5'11"), but he has all the talent needed to back up Rask this season.
Since joining the organization in the 2010-11 season, Khudobin has a record of 30-23-4 with three shutouts in 60 games as a member of the Providence Bruins.
Khudobin is one of the Bruins players who will play overseas during the lockout, according to Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period:
Bruins goalie prospect Anton Khudobin has signed with Atlant of the KHL.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) September 17, 2012
While many NHL teams would probably like their goaltenders to not go overseas during the lockout because they can develop bad habits, playing in the KHL should actually benefit Khudobin. He will be able to get some good experience against quality competition, which should help him in the event that Rask suffers another injury and Khudobin has to be the starter for a lengthy period of time.
Can the Bruins win the Stanley Cup with Khudobin? No, they cannot. But as far as backups go, he's a solid option.
Since the Bruins don't have anyone in Providence right now who's capable of being a starting goaltender at the NHL level, veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson would be the best free-agent option for general manager Peter Chiarelli if Khudobin is hurt or he underperforms.
Due to the playoff success he's enjoyed throughout his career, Roloson would be a nice fit in Boston. He also has never won a Stanley Cup in his career, so the opportunity to win one with the Bruins might be appealing to him.
His last playoff run was two years ago with the Tampa Bay Lightning, when he had a record of 10-6 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.51 GAA.
Roloson has played for seven different NHL teams, so there's not a lot of styles of play and defensive schemes he's unfamiliar with. He probably wouldn't have a tough time adjusting to the Bruins, who are likely the easiest team for a goalie to play for since their defense is so solid.
Who is the best possible backup goalie for Boston?
Don't expect the Bruins to ask Marty Turco to play NHL hockey in Boston for a second straight season. But if the team desperately needs some goaltending depth, he's one option to consider.
Turco wasn't impressive for the Bruins last year, but on a short-term basis, he is someone the team is familiar with.
Roloson is a better free-agent option, but if he's unavailable, Turco might be the next best choice on the market.
Thomas coming back to Boston would be shocking, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of it happening.
The two-time Vezina Trophy winner could easily get bored in his "retirement" and start to really miss the sport and/or the Bruins. A lot of players who retire want to return at some point, and since Thomas is healthy and probably still in shape, it wouldn't be surprising if he came back to the NHL at some point.
Should the Bruins ever consider bringing Thomas back?
Since the lockout will likely give most of the NHL's players some nice time off anyway, Thomas could decide to return for a shortened season.
If Rask suffers a significant injury and Khudobin doesn't perform well as the starter, the Bruins would be wise to ask Thomas to come back because he is capable of leading another deep playoff run.
While Thomas returning to the Bruins would certainly upgrade the team's strength in goal, would he be welcomed back by his teammates or the fans? That's the question Bruins management has to consider if bringing Thomas back ever becomes a real possibility.
Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins columnist at Bleacher Report. He was also B/R's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston and has covered the Bruins since the 2010-11 season. Follow him on Twitter.
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