There’s little doubt that Tuukka Rask is one of the top goaltenders in the NHL right now.
His strong play between the pipes — as well as that of his counterpart Jaroslav Halak — are a big reason the Boston Bruins were the first team in the league to hit 100 points this season. However, despite the fact he’s in fine form, Rask may be calling it quits after his current contract comes to an end following the 2020-21 season. He will be just 34 years old when that time comes.
“I have one year left in the contract, so we’ll see if I even play,” the Finnish star said during a recent one-on-one interview with Matt Porter of The Boston Globe when questioned about his future workload.
“We’ll see,” he said when asked by Porter if he would actually retire. “Always a possibility.”
And according to him, he wouldn’t even go to Finland to play. If he were to stop playing in the NHL, it would be the end of his professional hockey career and he would spend more time with his family.
Rask is currently in the second-last season of the eight-year, $56-million contract he inked with the Bruins back in 2013.
He won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011, albeit in a secondary role as he backed up Tim Thomas during that championship run and didn’t play in any of the team’s 25 playoff games. Rask has led Boston back to the Stanley Cup Finals twice since then, though.
In 2013 he put up a 1.88 goals against average and .940 save percentage over 22 postseason games, but the Bruins lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. Then just last season he brought Boston within one victory of winning it all, but faltered in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues. While he surrendered four goals on 20 shots in that crucial contest, Rask did put together yet another sparkling playoffs statistically. In 22 games he had a 2.02 goals against average and .934 save percentage.
Would join a short but elite list
Many phenomenal players have seen their NHL careers cut short due to injury. Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, Cam Neely, Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure and Pat LaFontaine are just some of the game’s best that were forced to retire in their early 30s.
Choosing to hang up the equipment while at or near the peak of your career is something that simply goes against everything we’ve come to know about professional sports. The NHL in particular is a league in which individuals continue to play until their performance dips below a certain standard.
Rask just has to look inside his own dressing room to find Zdeno Chara, the NHL’s oldest player. The rugged blueliner just recently turned 43. Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks and Patrick Marleau of the Pittsburgh Penguins — both in search of their first Stanley Cups — are the other two current NHLers over 40 years of age.
Montreal Canadiens legend Ken Dryden is the most decorated player to leave the league at the top of their game on their own accord. He was just 31 when he retired in 1979 after leading Montreal to a fourth-straight Cup, but had already done it all. In only eight seasons — seven of them full — he won Lord Stanley’s mug six times and the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender, on five occasions.
In midst of impressive campaign
So, what Rask is hinting at wouldn’t be territory that’s completely uncharted. However, it would be quite something, especially when you look at the season he was putting together for the Bruins before the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the NHL to hit pause.
He’s currently sporting a record of 26-8-6 with five shutouts. His 2.12 goals against average is first in the league. His .929 save percentage, meanwhile, places him second.
While he’s been his steady self the last few years, he hasn’t put up standard and advanced numbers this good since winning the Vezina in 2014.
With these things in mind, as long as his play doesn’t completely fall off a cliff by the end of his current deal, it would be hard — from a fan’s perspective — if Rask did indeed decide to call it a career after next season.
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