For a guy who's talked retirement multiple times in the last 18 months, Tuukka Rask continues to evade getting pinned down on any long-term choices for his NHL career.
The 33-year-old Bruins goaltender is entering the final year of his contract with the Bruins next season and said on a Monday Zoom video conference call with B’s reporters that he really could go either way when it comes to how long he’ll keep playing in the NHL.
Rask could be a guy who plays through one more contract and then walks away at 36 years old, or he could try to be one of those NHL goalies who keeps on grinding into his 40s if the mind, body and spirit are willing.
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He has made over $50 million in his NHL career, so Rask likely won’t be doing it for the money.
But there is the elusive Stanley Cup that he’s twice failed to grasp as the Stanley Cup Final starter in 2013 and 2019 after winning one as the backup for the 2011 Bruins.
Rask certainly didn’t sound like somebody who's going to walk away from a standout NHL career after next season while playing at a Vezina Trophy level this year, as he's ranked at the top of the NHL with a 2.12 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. Instead it’s a decision that remains to be made based on how he’s feeling at the time.
“I know that this summer I can talk about a possible extension with the Bruins, so we’ll see where that goes. I definitely don’t have thoughts about retirement or anything like that,” said Rask, who has remained at his Boston home in Newton during the self-quarantine while his third daughter Olivia was born. “We’ll see how this season plays out and then we’ll see if there are extension talks happening. I’ve never really thought about that really, the age number that I would like to play until.
“I think a lot of it has to do with how much you really want to keep playing. Is your body healthy? Do you have that passion for the game still? Those are the questions that you kind of try to take. It’s not a question of playing until you’re 36 or 40, or whatever. You can play as long as you can as long as your body feels healthy and you still want to do it.
When that drive slows down, then you need to rethink and revisit whether it’s something you want to do. I still have that passion for winning and playing, and that drives me. I haven’t put a number into what it’s going to be. Maybe it’s 36 or 37 and maybe it’s 42. You never know. Maybe I’ll be the goalie that plays until 45 [years old] and maybe not.
This is the same Rask who's recently joked multiple times following the Winter Classic and even just a few months ago about hanging them up sooner rather than later, so it might also depend on how the B’s goaltender is feeling that day as well.
The fact that the Bruins signed backup goalie Jaroslav Halak to a one-year contract for next season is a positive sign from the Bruins they think Rask will keep playing beyond the 2020-21 season. Otherwise, they might be more motivated to throw one of their young goalie prospects into the mix to see if they might be the future No. 1 guy once Rask has hung up the goalie pads.
If Rask keeps going beyond next season, there is less urgency to get an NHL look at guys like Daniel Vladar, Kyle Keyser or Jeremy Swayman.
For now, though, it sounds like Rask wants to keep going while close to the top of his game at 33 years old. So there’s no reason to think Tuukka Time won’t keep going on for at least a few more years into the future so long as he keeps stopping the puck.