On the morning Tuukka Rask decided to opt out of the NHL playoffs to attend to a family emergency, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the team supported Rask’s decision and that he expected Rask to be “the same player when we get up and running again next year.”
Somewhat understandably, many did not take Sweeney at his word then. Questions about Rask’s future with the team continued to linger, with speculation that he may retire or that the Bruins may look to trade him.
But at least from those around the team, there have continued to be more indications that Rask will be back than that he will be gone. Fellow goalie and close friend Jaroslav Halak said last week that he expected to be working with Rask again, and Rask’s agent recently told The Athletic that Rask was planning to play next season.
On Wednesday morning, Sweeney reiterated his support of Rask and made it pretty clear that he plans to have Rask back.
"I haven't had a conversation subsequent to when Tuukka left," Sweeney said. "We checked up on him to make sure him and his family are doing well and our reports are that they are indeed doing well. I have zero reservations about where Tuukka will be both on and off the ice for us. We feel we’ve had strong goaltending the last couple years, we've done a good job of mapping out the health of both players, and preserving when they're at their at their best.
"We continue to want to do that going forward. I think we’re in a really good spot with our goaltending. We’ll address needs as we see them going forward. I think we have a couple younger players in (Dan) Vladar and (Jeremy) Swayman and (Kyle) Keyser that will battle for playing time, and I think we’re going to allow for those guys to have the opportunity to battle for playing time."
Asked later in the Zoom call about whether this most recent leave of absence combined with a similar one in November 2018 leave any questions in his mind about Rask’s commitment level or whether he still wants to play, Sweeney was again adamant.
"No. I have zero reservations," Sweeney said. "If you look at Tuukka’s actual play, I think he’s a Vezina finalist this year. For me, that pretty much dictates everything. Obviously his own personal life, we all have matters that at times we have to deal with. He’s been given the opportunity in a couple of these instances to make sure he feels good on or off the ice. I think any player or any manager or any person involved in sport or in life would respect, has to respect that people have to tend to their own personal business.
“How he chooses to do that is certainly his own decision, and his alone. We provide resources for all of our players to work through any issues they may or may not have on or off the ice, and then provide support accordingly. We’re not going to deviate from that. We have to respect his privacy and allow him the latitude to take care of it. Ultimately it hasn’t affected his play on the ice. We have good goaltending and we'll continue to do so.”
Rask went 26-8-6 this regular season while ranking first in the NHL in goals against average (2.12) and second in save percentage (.929). He and Halak combined to win the William M. Jennings Trophy and he is one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy for the second time in his career.