NASHVILLE — After posting historic regular season numbers in 2022-23, Linus Ullmark arrived at the Music City as the heavy odds-on favorite to capture his first Vezina Award.
But, there’s a chance Ullmark could be making his last public appearance(s) as a member of the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins enter yet another off-season of uncertainty following their shocking and disappointing first-round loss to the Florida Panthers. Boston has a little over $4.9 million of salary cap space. As David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron continue to mull over their futures, the Bruins will have six other unrestricted free agents scheduled to hit the open market on July 1 — Tyler Bertuzzi, Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek and Connor Clifton — and a pair of pending restricted free agents in Trent Frederic and Jeremy Swayman.
Between their in-house free agent class and pursuing potential trades, a handful of current Bruins enter the summer as potential salary cap spaces. And Ullmark’s name has been front and center of the rumor mill.
The Swede carries a $5 million cap hit and a 16-team no-trade clause over the next two seasons. Given Swayman’s likely pay raise and Boston’s cap crunch, the Bruins may have to break up one of hockey’s dynamic goaltending duos.
“It’s crossed my mind, yeah. I’m not going to lie,” Ullmark said during Sunday’s media availability for the league’s award nominees. “That’s the business part of it. That’s the world we live in.”
Ullmark’s numbers in 2022-23 spoke for themselves, posting career marks in wins (40), save percentage (.938) and goals against average (1.89). He also became the first Bruin netminder in franchise history to score an empty-net tally, accomplishing the feat on Feb. 25 in Vancouver.
A reasonable $5 million cap hit could entice potential suitors needing a top-tier goaltender. Even Ullmark’s shaky performances in Games 5 and 6 of the Florida series shouldn’t dissuade the handful of squads hoping to land an upgrade in net.
And while admitting the possibility of playing elsewhere, Ullmark’s attitude over the trade speculation even-keeled.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Ullmark said. “For me, that’s not important. Whenever that day comes, or if it ever comes, that’s something I’ve got to deal with at that point.”
If it were up to Ullmark, he’d remain a Bruin. But keeping Ullmark and Swayman together presents a challenge.
Ullmark, Taylor Hall and Matt Grzelcyk all find themselves as potential salary cap casualties. Ideally, the Bruins would like to keep the Swayman-Ullmark tandem together.
Swayman appeared in four fewer games in the second season of his pairing with Ullmark. Still, the former UMaine star posted career bests in wins (24), goals against average (2.27) and shutouts (4).
“When you have two goalies that are so close when it comes to stats, there’s [probably] going to be some changes,” Ullmark said.
“I think for both of us, we want to be together, and we want to stay in Boston because that’s where we thrived, and you’ve seen the success that we’ve had. We just have to see. There’s a personal side to it, and there’s a business side to it. You’ve got to honor it, and that’s just what being a hockey player is.”
Ullmark will have a better idea about his future in the coming days. Jim Montgomery will likely commit to splitting the starts between Ullmark and Swayman if they both return.
Yet, the Jack Adams Award nominee remains confident that Ullmark and Swayman can handle an extensive workload if only one of them returns to the Bruins.
“Yes,” Montgomery said. “That’s an easy answer. They’re both consistent, and they’re both extremely driven.”
Ullmark will likely join Pelle Lindberg and the recent Hall of Fame nominee Henrik Lundqvist in the Sweden Vezina fraternity on Monday night. Whether the Bruins have Ullmark and Swayman back in the fold for their centennial season, however, is anyone’s guess.
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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