BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins made it quite clear a few weeks ago when they signed goaltending prospect Niklas Svedberg to a one-year, one-way contract worth $600,000 that he would be given the opportunity to earn a spot as Tuukka Rask's backup.
Even though the job appears to be Svedberg's at this point, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Tuesday night during a conference call with the media that the rookie goalie still needs to earn the backup role. Either way, Chiarelli believes the 24-year-old netminder is ready for the NHL.
"I think he’s almost ready, if not ready," Chiarelli said. "It doesn’t mean he gets the job. It doesn’t mean we won’t add somebody at some point to challenge him."
Despite reports, the Bruins have no interest in signing veteran goalie Marty Brodeur, according to a league source.
During the 2012-2013 season for the Providence Bruins of the AHL, Svedberg was outstanding with a 37-8-2 record, a 2.17 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in 48 games. He was the best goalie in the AHL that season, but those stats dipped a bit during the 2013-2014 season when he posted a 25-15-4 record, a 2.63 GAA and a .910 SP in 45 games for the P-Bruins.
"His stats weren’t as good as they were [in 2012-2013]," Chiarelli said. "I thought he had a terrific training camp. This is a fellow who won the Swedish Elite League championship [in 2012]. He was goalie of the year in the American League the next year."
Svedberg, along with fellow prospect Malcolm Subban and veteran Chad Johnson, were all solid during training camp last fall. Johnson earned the backup role and thrived, posting a 17-4-3 record, a 2.10 GAA and a .925 SP. Svedberg made one start for the Bruins and posted a victory.
"It may be in his mind [that] he thought he was ready to play and start and certainly had a very good training camp," Chiarelli said. "I think for that reason, mentally, he was a little off last year. I think he’s a professional. He’s got areas to work on in his game. What I do know is that our goalie coach is good, our system is conducive to good goaltending. We keep the pucks on the outside. That doesn’t diminish anything from our goalies’ accomplishments, but it can be a better system. You have to be able to find pucks in traffic. But generally, they’re on the outside. Every goalie that we’ve brought in -- at least the last two or three -- has improved as a backup, and Niklas's work ethic is terrific. He’s got some areas in his game he has to improve, but we had calls on him from other teams. He’s certainly going to challenge for a spot."
With Johnson headed to the New York Islanders on a two-year deal, Subban will also be given an opportunity to earn the backup role. But the 20-year-old could use more time to hone his skills in the AHL. In his first pro season, the former first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft posted a 15-10-5 record, a 2.31 GAA and a .920 SP in 33 games for the P-Bruins.
Unless Svedberg is not prepared for training camp, or struggles, the job is his to lose.