BOSTON -- While Tim Thomas has made headlines this summer for his decision to step away from hockey, Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has bided his time in Finland, skating, playing rounds of golf and tennis and catching up with friends and family.
The 25-year-old, who ostensibly will find himself as the starter in the Bruins’ crease this season, broke his offseason silence on Thursday, speaking with reporters after making an appearance at Dana Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.
Rask incited no controversy while fielding questions on his new one-year contract, his relationship with Thomas and his ability to take the brunt of the goaltending responsibilities in the upcoming year.
“I don’t take any more extra pressure for that,” Rask said. “I just look at it as an opportunity to play more games. It’s going to be an interesting season.”
He hesitated, paying mind to the NHL’s current collective bargaining negotiations, before adding, “Hopefully, it starts on time.”
Coming off an injury-shortened season in which he played 22 games, going 11-8-0 with a 2.05 GAA, Rask signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Bruins in June. He would remain a restricted free agent next summer if there is no change to current CBA rules.
It was reported earlier this summer that Rask had been approached by the Bruins with a multiyear deal prior to signing the one-year contract. While Rask insisted upon the one-year deal, he reaffirmed his intention to remain with the team beyond 2013.
“We just figured (a one-year deal) was best for both of us,” Rask said, “and then if I have a good year, we can sign a long-term contract.”
Rask said that Thomas’ decision to sit out the upcoming season came as a bit of a surprise, but supported the former Vezina winner’s reasons for doing so.
“I wasn’t expecting him to do that, but I really appreciate his decision to want to be with his family and take some time off from hockey. It really didn’t shock me that much. But it’s more like I’m sad to see him leave.”
Rask continued, “Obviously, he was tired, played so much in the last two years, but I didn’t have any sense that he was exhausted mentally.”
There will be plenty of adjustments for Rask in the coming year. Questions about the goaltender’s durability will be answered, which one way or another will impact his future prospects with the organization.
Among those changes for Rask in the coming year will be the missing presence of his locker mate in the dressing room.
“(Thomas has) been in Europe, he’s been in Providence, he’s played all over the place, so he taught me the mentality to work hard in practice every day and to fight for your job,” Rask said. “I think that was the biggest thing he taught me in the first few years.”
Rask emphasized that he’s up for the challenge of shouldering the load in net. He asserted his faith in his ability to play 50 or more games and remain healthy. All that’s left is to prove it on the ice.
“I’ve proven to myself that I can play in this league at a good level, so there’s no pressure in that way, but this is really more of a challenge to have a good year.”