Luckily, the Bruins shouldn’t be in the market for a No. 1 goaltender for the better part of the decade ahead. But Tuukka Rask is never going to be an 82-game-plus-playoffs goaltender. Heck, no one ever will be again. So having a capable back-up at their disposal will be important for the Bruins going forward.
As currently constituted, the Bruins have probably the best goaltending tandem in the entire NHL with 2009 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas serving as the No. 2 to Rask. Should the Bruins succeed in trading Thomas somewhere he can again be a No. 1 , however, they’re going to need another veteran to complement Rask. Maybe a back-up will be part of the return in a Thomas trade, or more likely the Bruins will have to sign a free agent.
Three goaltenders scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency July 1 stand out as longtime backups that could be solid mentors to Rask.
When Buffalo’s Ryan Miller won the Vezina last week, he thanked Patrick Lalime. The 35-year-old Lalime posted a 2.81 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in just 16 games. You add a few more games to his workload and his numbers probably get even better.
The Bruins know all about what Alex Auld brings to the table. The lanky netminder, now 29 years old, is a quality person with a penchant for solid rallying speeches in the playoffs (as he showed in ’07-08 with Boston). He posted a 2.96 GAA and .895 save percentage last year while playing for the New York Rangers and Dallas. Both Auld and Lalime would come relatively cheap.
If the Bruins wanted to pay a little more, they could chase Atlanta’s Johan Hedberg. In 47 games, the 37-year-old Hedberg posted a 2.62 GAA and .915 save percentage last season. By all accounts, he’s another quality veteran willing to work with a young netminder. Of course, he might want to work a little more than mentor considering his solid numbers and would probably want to go somewhere he’d be guaranteed to play more.
Up another wrung on the pecking order sits Martin Biron, who would definitely cost more than the above-mentioned netminders and eat up more of the Bruins’ salary cap than they’re willing to devote to a back-up goaltender. Biron is just 32, and would be an excellent insurance policy should Rask be visited by the sophomore jinx or battle injuries next season. However, Biron also would probably want to go somewhere he could definitely be at least a No. 1A, a promise the Bruins probably wouldn’t want to make.
It seems like Dany Sabourin, who had a strong year with the Bruins’ Providence (AHL) farm club last season, is a candidate to return this fall. With a solid training camp, he could prove to be a strong understudy. But Boston definitely has to add at least one more veteran to create competition, and the players mentioned above would be the club’s best options.