After Anton Khudobin signed with the Dallas Stars, the spot of the Boston Bruins backup goaltender opened. There are a few options the organization could explore either before or during the season. With the recent acquisition of Jaroslav Halak, it seems that he is the primary option for the role. However, the thrill of free agency isn’t over yet and the Bruins even have a few goaltenders in their AHL affiliate Providence Bruins that might be ready for the NHL.
Boston Bruins Backup Goaltender Options
Signing Halak will certainly be a helpful move, but it seems to be about seven years too late. The Slovakian goaltender was the starter for the Montreal Canadiens in 2009-2010 and even got them to the Eastern Conference Final, where they eventually lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.
From there, he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders before coming to Boston on July 1. Halak played in 54 games last season, but went 20-26-6 for the Islanders, who finished last in the Metropolitan Division.
Putting Halak in the backup role would take the load off of Tuukka Rask, which has proved to be what he needs during the regular season. Khudobin went 16-6-7 last season and boosted the team when Rask needed a break. Halak’s experience in the league may be exactly what the Bruins need this year.
Halak’s value in a trade may also be what the Bruins want him for. They have been known to deal goaltenders for more players, like Martin Jones in 2015, which could happen again. They have also taken goaltenders past their prime and done nothing with them, like Marty Turco in 2011. The brutal truth about Boston is that their recent decisions involving backup goaltenders have not been spectacular. Halak may quickly turn out to be a bust, so having another solution is necessary.
Dallas has opted not to re-sign him, as they now have Khudobin, which leaves Lehtonen looking for a new team. His 15-14-3 record helped when Ben Bishop needed a rest, but going just above .500 in his 14th season in the NHL hasn’t turned any heads. If the Bruins make a deal for Halak, signing Lehtonen might be a smart move.
Zane McIntyre had a great season with the Providence Bruins last year, posting a 26-15-2 record in the AHL and a .914 save percentage. However, AHL success does not always carry over in the the NHL. In the 2016-17 season, he went 0-4-1 for Boston and hasn’t been back since.
The bright side to this is that McIntyre spent a full year in Providence as the starter and put his team into the playoffs. He may not be entirely ready to fit the role, but we may see him take some games to test if he can handle the pressure.
Taking a goaltender from Providence and putting them into Boston has not been such an easy thing to do. It seems that every time it happens, they crack under the pressure. Malcolm Subban (although he found his game in Vegas) knows all about that, going 0-2 with six goals against during his time in Boston.
What’s Next for Boston
The most likely thing to happen in Boston is that Halak takes the spot on the bench as the second goaltender. He is only two years older than Rask and being taken on the first day of free agency means that the Bruins see something in him. Putting him in that number two spot may also motivate Rask to keep fighting for the top goaltending spot if Halak performs well.
Rask has gotten comfortable since Tim Thomas left and the closest the Bruins have been to a Cup was five years ago. As a starter in the league last year, Halak appears the immediate answer, but McIntyre and Vladar could be seeing their chance come at any moment this season.