After waiting for months, Tuukka Raska was finally signed by the Boston Bruins to a $1,000,000 one-year contract on Tuesday. It’s nice to see the veteran netminder back, as he has had a remarkable tenure with the franchise. Jeremy Swayman, the Providence Bruins’ goaltender, has returned to the American Hockey League (AHL) as the odd man out.
Considering the Bruins’ goaltending trio, it had to be Swayman heading to the minors. Because he is still on an entry-level contract, he was the only goalie who didn’t need to clear waivers to be sent down, which makes him the lone victim of the Rask signing – and it’s hard not to feel bad for him.
Swayman Has Proven He’s an NHL Goaltender
Last season, Swayman made his NHL debut for the Bruins. He was incredible. He had a 7-3-0 record in 10 games, a 1.50 goals against average and a.945 goal save percentage. However, there were still questions about his performance in Boston’s first full season. At the beginning of their careers, young goaltenders can be unpredictable. That and Rask’s long-term injury sparked the Bruins to sign Linus Ullmark during the summer. They also traded Daniel Vladar, a rookie.Calgary Flames during the process.
This season, Swayman’s play doesn’t warrant a demotion. In 16 games with the Bruins, he has an 8-6-2 record, a 2.26 goals-against average, and a .918 save percentage; the latter stats are a perfect indication that he’s an NHL-caliber goalie. At times, he’s looked stronger than Ullmark, who has an 11-5-0 record, but also a .2.57 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they show that it’s arguable who is the better goaltender, and neither has struggled enough to be demoted from an NHL roster.
Will Swayman be able to benefit from being back in Providence?
Swayman’s performance at Boston should make him a strong AHL player. Providence will be better off with an NHL goaltender. They have a 13-9-3 record and are fourth in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, so he should help their chances of making the playoffs. Yet, it’s worth considering how much Swayman can improve against weaker competition.
Related: What Tuukka Rak Returning Means to the Bruins
This is a huge positive. With Ullmark, Swayman didn’t have too many stretches starting multiple games in a row. He will have the opportunity to play in the AHL, so he should be available for the Bruins when they call him up. It’s better he play with Providence, waiting for a call-up, than ride the pine as a third-string goalie in Boston.
Stars’ Jake Oettinger Can Relate
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars, can relate to the situation. After a strong rookie campaign in 2020-21, the 23-year-old found himself back in the AHL with the Texas Stars this season because, with too many goalies on the roster, he was also the only one who didn’t have to clear waivers. Stars’ offseason acquisitions Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin, and Ben Bishop were their stars. Ben Bishop, however, was hoping for a comeback after sustaining a knee injury. He was forced to retire after just one appearance in Texas.
This is the upside to this story. After Khudobin’s disastrous start to the season he was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors. This, in turn, cemented Oettinger’s spot with the NHL team, and he has been excellent since. He has an 8-2 record, 2.22 goals against average, and a.923 saving percentage in 11 games this season. Oettinger’s demotion to the minors didn’t impact his NHL ability, and if he keeps playing this well, he won’t be heading back there. Swayman may be subject to the same fate.
Although the goalie situation in Boston is a bit different, Swayman should pay close attention to Oettinger’s journey. Just because he is with Providence now doesn’t mean he won’t return to Boston shortly. The Rask signing was a positive one. The team landed their all-time winningest goalie on a team-friendly deal, which couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bruins, who have a 19-11-2 record and rank fourth in the Atlantic Division. However, even with all of this, we can’t ignore that Swayman has done more than enough to be an NHL goalie, and he should be the future of Boston’s crease.
Michael DeRosa contributes to The Hockey Writers. He covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and other hockey teams. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. You can find his work on THW as well as NHLTradeRumors.com and BBallRumors.com. He also contributes to FootballRumors.me. The Rat Trick.