The NHL is officially going to the Olympics. So what does that mean for the NHL’s top unsigned free agent? Tuukka Rask has made it clear that he will only play for the Boston Bruins (and his teammates expect just that later this season), but the star goalie has said nothing about the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The Olympic break will take place from February 3-22 and Rask must sign with Boston by the trade deadline, expected to be March 21, in order to be eligible for the postseason. Will he use the Winter Games as a warmup? As noted by The Athletic staff in their Olympics roster projections, if Rask wants a spot on Team Finland, it is his. For one, the team not as deep as they have been in the past, with the goaltenders projected to be Nashville’s Juuse Saros, Carolina’s Antti Raanta, and Chicago’s Kevin Lankinen. More of a factor though is that Rask’s numbers on the international stage are nothing short of stunning, with a .938 save percentage and 1.73 GAA in the 2014 Olympics and a .920 save percentage and 2.02 GAA in the 2016 World Cup. Add in his elite career NHL numbers and even at 34 and returning from injury he would be at worst the No. 2 for Finland. There is obviously some risk to Rask and the Bruins that he could re-injure himself while playing in the Olympics. However, the upside is that it will get him back into game shape without costing Boston. Once Rask is signed, there won’t be much time for him to get back up to speed unless the team opts to carry three goalies for a while. It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out and if the aging veteran is as determined to represent his country once more as he is to return to Boston for another run.
- Better now than in-season, but Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton received the difficult news that he has tested positive for COVID-19, reports The Boston Globe’s Matt Dougherty. To make matters worse, the young blue liner is currently on his honeymoon. The Bruins have not commented on the situation and Clifton himself has not issued any follow-up. It is unclear if Clifton is vaccinated or not or if he is symptomatic at this time. The Bruins have not yet announced the start date for training camp, but with their preseason debut scheduled for September 26, it can’t be too far away. If Clifton has indeed contract the virus, he has a matter of weeks to recover and clear the NHL’s COVID Protocol or he will at least miss the start of camp. That could be critical for a player who is expected to compete for a starting role this fall.
- Prospect defenseman Roman Bychkov has proven that he can produce at the junior level in Russia with 43 points and a +47 rating over the past three seasons in the MHL. However, his KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has yet to give him a chance in the big leagues. That will change this season. The KHL’s Amur Khabarovsk has announced that they have acquired Bychkov on loan for 2021-22. A perennial bottom dweller in the KHL, there is no reason to believe that Khabarovsk will not give the 20-year-old an opportunity to show what he can do against elite competition. The Bruins will be paying attention as well. Since he was selected in the fifth round in 2019, Bychkov has already outshined his draft slot with his play in Russia and at the World Junior Championship. Boston would like to see him take that next step as they evaluate whether to bring him over to North America.