Today the Boston Bruins organization made the first of several tough calls the organization will have to make coming up to July 1st. The organization chose to address the lack of a back up goaltender under contract and took steps to make sure Tuukka Rask has adequate back up for next year. Today, the Bruins announced that they signed goaltender Niklas Svedberg to a one-year, one way contract. The contract has a cap hit around six hundred thousand dollars. Last year, Svedberg made his NHL debut in Boston on January 2nd, earning a 3-2 overtime win over the Nashville Predators . He stopped thirty three of thirty five shots (.942 save percentage) in that effort.
The Bruins had a tough choice to make and they made the one that made the most sense financially. Chad Johnson had a very good season as the number two goaltender in Boston. Svedberg finished sixth overall in save percentage (.925%) and goals against average (2.10). His 17-4-3 (two shutouts) record was amongst the best in the NHL for a back up netminder. Had the Bruins not been staring down one of the tightest budgets they’ve seen since Peter Chiarelli took the helm in Boston, they would have picked up Johnson in a blink of an eye. Unfortunately, the Bruins are in a heap of trouble when it comes to cap space, and this way they can a decent goaltender to replace the rather good one they’ll be giving up.
Sadly, history is repeating itself in Boston. The Bruins had to free up space and cash to reward Tuukka Rask and it forced the Bruins to part waves with Anton Khudobin. Khudobin had been a great number two and I was less than thrilled to see Johnson take over that slot. Johnson’s quiet professionalism soon made me eat my words. Once again, the Bruins need to free up space (this time in order to secure Jarome Iginla), and Chad Johnson will be praying the price for being just a little too good for the money he’s currently making. Johnson can likely command a low seven figure salary after last season’s performance, and the Bruins just don’t have that kind of cash lying around.
Svedberg is not terrible by any stretch of the imagination. The Bruins organization saw what they saw in Khudobin and Johnson, and I’m sure they see the same thing in the young Swede that will be moving in to back up Tuukka. Svedberg has one hundred and two AHL games under his belt, and has compiled a 66-27-6 record. He won the Aldege ‘Baz’ Bastien Memorial Award for being regarded as the best AHL goaltender. He places in the top five in the AHL for wins (second-37), goals against average (fifth-2.17), and save percentage (third-.925). He plays a style that compliments Rask, and he’s played with Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Matt Fraser, and other P-Bruins that have been rotated up to Boston due to injuries.
The organization has to scrape every last dollar in order not to go over the cap (It currently stands at seventy one million minus the four and three quarter million penalty assessed to Boston due to bonuses awarded to players last season). Financially, the Bruins made the right call here. Personally, I think they made a mistake. Sure Jarome Iginla is amazing, but is he worth keeping him and giving up players who have performed better than average and still have a decade long professional career ahead of them? Chiarelli has done good work in the past with his creative budgeting, and I hope he strikes (black and) gold with this latest move.