The Boston Bruins arrived at their inevitable decision on Tuesday after Tuukka Rask signed his one-year contract. They went with the traditional route, assigning a waiver-exempt Jeremy Swayman to Providence.
Bruce Cassidy informed Swayman and Linus Ullmark of Rasks’s plans following off-season hip surgery at training camp. Upon returning to practice, Boston’s all-time winningest netminder shared the net with Swayman and Ullmark as part of his rehab.
The young Swayman showcased flashes of brilliance throughout his opening act at the NHL level. He didn’t have as smooth a season following a stellar 10-game run a year ago but bounced back nicely following each rough outing.
The young Swayman fell victim to the business side of hockey after his discussion with general manager Don Sweeney. With Swayman ineligible for the taxi squad, Sweeney didn’t have much choice, opting to send Boston’s young and promising netminder to the AHL for more seasoning. That, along with the Bruins signing Ullmark to a four-year deal in the off-season — with a no-movement clause included — ultimately sealed Swayman’s fate.
“Dissapointed, but not overly surprised based on how it was trending and the way it was tracking for Tuukka’s health,” Sweeney said of Swayman’s reaction. “We didn’t have a necessary timeline [for Tuukka’s return]. Even the plans that we laid out were sort of disrupted. So I’m not going to apologize for not announcing what our plans are. Internally, we knew [what Tuukka’s plans] were, but even though it went sideways with the recent cancellation of games in Providence.”
Sweeney alluded to Rask signing a professional tryout agreement for a conditioning assignment last week in Providence in that aforementioned quote. But a COVID outbreak with the Leigh Valley Phantoms interrupted plans for Rask’s first P-Bruins appearance in 13 years.
Rask signed his one-year deal hours after the Bruins released him from his PTO on Tuesday. Sweeney informed Swayman of the developments and his trip to Providence shortly after. Yet, Swayman took the news as well as any young player could amid the circumstances.
“Jeremy took it in stride as a professional. He’s extremely motivated to be a top-flight goaltender, which we believe in,” Sweeney said.
Swayman began his season as Boston’s opening night starter. His upcoming trip down I-95 doesn’t hinder the B’s future in net one bit.
Even with a slight statistical decrease from a year ago, Swayman proved himself worthy of his NHL-caliber status through 26 career starts (15-9-2, 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage). Now he’ll stay sharp in Providence with more reps instead of waiting behind Rask and Ullmark in Boston.
The Bruins have zero concern with Swayman losing his confidence. Sweeney echoed that sentiment after sharing a specific moment of his dialogue with the former UMaine standout. After all, the former Bruins defenseman found himself traveling a similar path during his playing days.
“Having the opposite direction of driving 95 North during my [playing] time a long time ago, I understand the disappointment, especially when you position yourself to being on an NHL team. You’ve had some success [with the big club]. It’s generally not a straight, linear path. So take the opportunity to work on your game and expand it, and realize that there are challenges associated with everyone’s professional career. And Jeremy, to his credit, recognizes all of those things,” Sweeney said.
“I think the single biggest thing that came out of our conversation today was he just stared at me and looked and said, ‘Well, if those two guys struggle, do I get the net?’ That’s what you want to hear from a player. And any young player that has confidence in himself and has had some success will accept the fact that he has some things he has to continue to work on.”
Every NHL journey presents unique opportunities. As the calm but competitive Swayman embarks on his detour, the Bruins know they’ll have a stable insurance policy intact if things go awry with Rask or Ullmark.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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