The American Hockey League’s announcement Wednesday is potentially good news for the Bruins goaltending prospects.
On Wednesday, the American Hockey League (AHL) announced that they are pushing back the targeted start date of their season from December to early February with the hopes of having some type of hockey in 2021. This is some good news for the Boston Bruins, especially their goaltending prospects.
Tuukka Rask is beginning the final year of his current eight-year, $56 million contract. At 33 years old, Rask has hinted at the possibility of retirement after his contract expires following the season. Truth be told, it would not surprise anyone if he decides to walk away from the game and call it a career.
In May, the Bruins re-signed Jaroslav Halak to a one-year, $2.25 million contract to return for a third season as the backup to Rask. Halak has been arguably one of the best backups in the league since he came to Causeway Street two years ago. He has allowed Rask to take more nights off during the regular season to be fresher for the playoffs, while helping to keep the Bruins near the top of the Atlantic Division standings.
Knowing that the window might be coming to a close with Rask and Halak, the Bruins need an AHL season for goalie prospects Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman to showcase what they can do to be in a position to be the guy in net as early as the 2021-22 season should Rask and Halak be gone.
Vladar was selected in the third round of the 2015 Entry Draft and has spent the last four seasons in the minors. The 23-year old had his best season with Providence last season with a 14-7-1 record and led the AHL with a 1.79 goals-against average (GAA) and a .936 save percentage (SV%). He split time with Max Legace, who left the Bruins in free agency and signed a two-way deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.
Vladar joined the Bruins in the Toronto playoff bubble and was elevated to backup to Halak when Rask left in the middle of the first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes for family reasons. He did make it into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning when Halak surrendered four goals in 32 minutes of action. Vladar allowed three goals on 18 shots in 28 minutes in a 7-1 Bruins loss.
Swayman signed his entry-level contract with the Bruins in March after a stellar junior season at the University of Maine which saw him become a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which is awarded to the top collegiate player. He also won the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top college goalie.
The Anchorage, Alaska native was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 Entry Draft and nearly single-handily carried the Black Bears to the NCAA tournament this season with an 18-11-5 record. He finished with a 2.07 GAA and .939 SV%. Maine was on course for a tournament berth before the season was halted in its track in early March by the coronavirus pandemic.
Swayman played in 98 games at Maine and compiled a 47-40-12 record. His goals-against average and save percentage dropped as his career went along to a point where he was ready to forgo his senior year and become a pro.
Major League Baseball lost their minor league seasons this summer because of COVID-19 and it could feel the effects of that down the line. It is crucial that the Bruins have the AHL play some sort of season to allow Vladar and Swayman to play some key minutes as they develop for a possibly NHL career in Boston.