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Kalman: Zane McIntyre Makes Best Decision For Himself And Bruins

BOSTON (CBS) -- Even as Boston University star Jack Eichel keeps talking about the possibility that he'll return to school rather than join the Buffalo Sabres after they draft him No. 2 overall at the NHL Draft on Friday, it makes little sense for players who've accomplished almost everything there is to achieve in the NCAA to continue to play for free.

That was the determination goaltender Zane McIntyre came to last month, when he left the University of North Dakota after his junior season. McIntyre signed his first pro contract, a two-year entry-level deal with the Bruins, on Tuesday.

McIntyre, who'll turn 23 later this summer, had a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, won the Mike Richter Award and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2014-15 for Frozen Four-participant UND. His 2.08 GAA and .927 save percentage in 91 college games are both school records.

Despite the presence of Tuukka Rask and his $7 million NHL salary-cap charge on the Bruins' payroll through the end of the 2020-21 season, it made sense for McIntyre to get his pro career started now. McIntyre is looking forward to the competition for playing time now that he's joined Rask, Malcolm Subban and Jeremy Smith on the Bruins' goaltending depth chart.

"Obviously, if you look anywhere in the league, there's going to be competition in any position and in any league," McIntyre told a pool reporter Tuesday. "And you know what, if I look at my track record, I've had my fair share of competition too and really enjoyed it and really have grown and developed and I think that's maybe one of the reasons why I'm here where I'm at is the amount of competition I've been through. And it's no different here in Boston, where you've got Tuukka Rask, one of the best goalies in the NHL, and Smith and Subban as well, so it's been great. It will be a great challenge, but something I'm really looking forward to, to really get in there and show what I'm worth and make some things happen.

"So nothing's been indicated, by any means, with the positions two to four, but at the same time, too, I think every player in the NHL knows that their play dictates where they're going to be. So I'm just coming in and going to work my tail off and go from there."

McIntyre's decision will benefit him (he'll get paid to play) and also the Bruins, who now have a better idea of their depth as they look into trades and signings. McIntyre, the Bruins' sixth-round pick in 2010, could've returned to school and left the Bruins short on the goaltending front. Even worse, he could've utilized the collective bargaining agreement to his benefit and bolted for another organization. That would've been a double slap in the face of the Bruins.

But now they have some flexibility. They can entertain more ideas of trading Subban. If McIntyre performs well at the start of his pro career, he could be trade bait if he doesn't wind up winning the NHL No. 2 job. The Bruins now have a deeper talent pool behind Rask than they would've if McIntyre didn't sign and the team was forced to sign some journeyman to compete for the backup role. With Rask hitting the Bruins' cap at his high number, the Bruins are never going to be able to invest much in a backup. So the cheaper and younger they can go in that role, the better.

Of course, now there's the matter of whether McIntyre can play at the next level. When the Bruins drafted him, McIntyre was still in high school. He thinks his game has come a long way and he's no longer just an athletic goalie.

"I think all of the aspects in a lot of areas I've tried to clean up throughout my time in junior and college as well, with working with [UND assistant coach] Karl Goehring here, he's done a great job to just clean up – whether it's save selections, whether it's movement, stuff like that and different techniques," McIntyre said. "But I think jumping to the next level will obviously be a step up and I think I need to really work on my net play, just working on my pipes, with the reverse VH, the VH and the jam position as well. It's three different techniques that have kind of come along over the past couple of years. So with that, I think if I can improve that and also battling through traffic and screens, I think that will be the two areas I will really try and target in trying to get better here."

It might've have taken some by surprise that McIntyre opted to sign with Boston knowing he'd have Rask blocking his way for a few years. But his acknowledgement of the areas he needs to improve shows that he's grounded and respectful of the process. It might take a few years for him to able to play in the NHL. By then, anything could've happened with Rask or the Bruins' organization as a whole. Jonathan Quick played 38 games in the ECHL and 31 in the AHL before getting a full-time NHL chance. Other goaltenders have taken similar paths.

Nothing beats experience. And even if part of that experience is sitting and watching Rask on a nightly basis, it beats toying with college kids and playing just two games a week for five months. McIntyre needed to take the next step in his development and the Bruins needed him to take that step as part of their organization. Both got what they needed Tuesday.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for and also contributes to and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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