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Don Sweeney Explains Bruins' Potential Plan At Goaltender, With Free Agent Tuukka Rask Set For Surgery

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Tuukka Rask's injury didn't help the Bruins in their quest to win the Cup this past season. And his impending surgery is not going to help at the start of next year's journey, either.

With Rask set to go under the knife to repair the torn labrum in his hip, the Bruins' goaltending situation for the 2021-22 season has become complicated. Instead of a somewhat-ideal scenario with the veteran Rask working alongside the youngster Jeremy Swayman, with Daniel Vladar also available in the event that Swayman takes a step backward in year two as a pro, the Bruins have to scramble a bit to figure out their plan in net.

General manager Don Sweeney spoke about that conundrum on Tuesday morning, and he laid out some details about what the team might do. While Rask is not under contract, the veteran goaltender seems to be very much in the Bruins' plans.

"[Rask] indicated to us that he fully intends to rehab with the intention of coming back, and we'll go through our meetings and such and planning going forward that we have to factor in that he could be a part of that," Sweeney said. "Whether or not that means that the two young guys get the bulk of the work in the early going and see where Tuukka comes, or we go to augment our group and create internal competition and then reevaluate how Tuukka's feeling coming out of the rehab process."

Rask told the media last week that he intends on playing next season and should be ready to play in January or February. The Bruins can't necessarily rely on Swayman and Vladar -- who have 15 combined starts in the NHL -- to carry them through three or four months, hence Sweeney's indication that the team may need to add a veteran goaltender to the roster.

Tuukka Rask: 15-5-2, .913 save %, 2.28 GAA, 2 SO
Jaroslav Halak: 9-6-4, .905 save %, 2.53 GAA, 2 SO
Jeremy Swayman: 7-3-0, .945 save %, 1.50 GAA
Daniel Vladar: 2-2-1, .886 save %, 3.40 GAA

Of course, the addition of a veteran goaltender could mean that Rask does not have a place on the team once healthy, thus adding to the complexity of the decision-making process.

As for the two young goalies, Sweeney anticipates they'll get chances to play, one way or another. It's just not yet decided if the duo can or should be the team's backbone through the first several months of the year.

"Time's gonna tell whether or not one of them is going to be a number one goaltender in the National Hockey League," Sweeney said. "I think we feel very comfortable with the depth in the organization, having those two young players. And we're in the early stages of just learning that Tuukka has decided to have surgery, and now we have to make a decision. If we're going to go to market and bring in a player that we feel is ahead of those two players -- certainly from an experience standpoint -- or do we roll the dice a little bit, allow those guys to see if they can handle the workload, which is a tall task. Make no mistake about it, it's a tall task."

Sweeney said that Swayman's sample size is small, and that Vladar "acquitted himself really well," outside of the Bruins' one disastrous 8-1 home loss to Washington.

"We're still in the early stages, and feel comfortable with the depth, but we have a very crucial decision to make and chart a course for certainly the first part of the season as to when Tuukka will be ready," Sweeney said. "And we have to forecast that accurately if Tuukka does decide to come back and play and how he fits in."

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