Clearly, the Bruins believe their window to win a Stanley Cup will go for at least one more season beyond this current one.
That was evident on Friday when they announced they had signed 35-year-old backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a one-year, $2.25 million contract for the 2020-21 NHL season. With a very reachable bonus, Halak could end up making $3.5 million for the B's next season and will have the Bruins shelling out more than $10 million for a goaltending duo that's been the best in the NHL over the last two seasons.
That's not insignificant given the lack of a true salary cap picture for next season in light of the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, and given that the Bruins have players like Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk and Zdeno Chara among others that they are hoping to sign following this season as well. It's also an interesting situation because both Rask and Halak will be lame-duck goaltenders without contracts beyond that season.
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Behind Rask and Halak the Bruins have a number of still-developing young goalies like Daniel Vladar, Jeremy Swayman and Kyle Keyser, and they will have no idea if any of those young whippersnapper goalies are NHL material as long as both NHL goaltending roster spots are on lockdown. For this coming season, there's an argument to be made that all three young goalies would benefit from more development time in the minors, but that's going to leave the Bruins without a readymade answer between the pipes if both the 34-year-old Rask and the 35-year-old Halak move on after the 2020-21 season.
Those are all questions for another day, though.
Halak has put up a 40-17-10 record over his two seasons with the Bruins with save percentages of .922 and .919 in his two seasons, and has, even more importantly, allowed the Bruins to limit Rask's workload to the ideal 50-game range. At the time of the 2019-20 regular season going on pause, the Bruins goaltenders were leading the NHL with a 2.39 goals against average and .921 save percentage this season on the way to winning the Jennings Trophy as the league's best goaltending duo.
It was clearly a strength for the Bruins this season after the shared workload allowed Rask to be at his best during the postseason, so that part of it is a no-brainer to continue for the Black and Gold for at least another season.
Certainly, the Bruins feel like they are still in a very competitive place after making it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season and leading the NHL with 100 points this season at the time when the regular season was put on pause.
"They all realize that their careers are ticking down," said Bruins President Cam Neely last week during a virtual town hall with season ticket holders. "They have played more years than they have in front of them and they see the opportunity in front of them. My guess is because of the group we have, the opportunity we have in front of us and how many years they might have left to compete, they will be ready to go [when the season resumes]."
It will be interesting to see what happens beyond next year when the aging NHL core in Boston will really be getting into the twilight of their hockey careers. Will that be the time specifically for a change in goaltending or will the Bruins simply be making moves for a hockey team that's no longer realistically in their competitive window to raise a Stanley Cup?
It could be all the above, but inking Halak for one more season with the Bruins indicates they feel like there will be at least one more hurrah with an aging group for a Stanley Cup next year regardless of what happens this season.