LAS VEGAS — Goaltender Manny Fernandez, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, has come to terms with the fact he won’t be wearing black and gold next season. The Bruins have informed his agent they won’t be pursuing a new deal.
But unlike his departure from Minnesota, Fernandez’s exit from Boston is not a bitter one.
“For a team to stay behind a guy even though he’s not producing what they went and got him for, it’s really tough. At the same time, it’s not an easy situation. In those times, you see what kind of organization it is. And they stood behind me from the start to the end,” said Fernandez tonight before the NHL Awards ceremony, during which he and Tim Thomas accepted the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed on the season. “They believed in me. I came into camp this year, even though Timmy had a great season the year before, they said, we want you to push him even harder. That was my easy task. To get in there and try the best I could and get back into playing shape. And we had a great year.”
Fernandez hinted at retirement even before the 2008-09 season concluded. But he talked it over with his wife, who enjoyed Boston as much as he did, and determined that “if Boston had offered me probably a No. 2 job, I probably would’ve taken it. That’s how much I love Boston.” But Fernandez knew that it was time for Tuukka Rask to move up to the NHL and that the Bruins were eager to give the prospect a shot.
Thoughts of returning to Boston, however, reignited Fernandez’s desire to keep playing. More important, his health has held up. He said he’s been resting his knee and back and felt good since the end of the season.
“It’s going to be pretty soon here where I get back to working out and that’s probably going to tell me a lot,” said Fernandez. “If I had to guess, at the end of the season it was feeling pretty good. So I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be a possible thing to do.”
Fernandez will weed through some offers after July 1 and then decide where to play next year. And if the Bruins need a reference to convince another free agent to come to the Bruins, they can always read that player Fernandez’s opinions on the organization.