Tuukka Rask's appearance last week at the Boston Bruins training facility suggests he could be ready to return from off-season hip surgery earlier than expected.
Whether that will be with the Bruins remains to be seen.
The 34-year-old Rask spent his entire 14-season NHL career with the Bruins, including the past eight campaigns as their starting goaltender. He remains an unrestricted free agent as he works his way back into game shape. His return was anticipated for January but in August he suggested he could be ready by late December.
Woking out with Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa is another signal of Rask's intention to stay in Boston. He's already indicated signing with the Bruins is his preference, suggesting he'd be a “cheap goalie” for them.
How cheap, however, has to be determined. Cap Friendly shows the Bruins with $1.5 million in cap space. Rask will have to accept a bargain-basement one-year deal to fit comfortably within their cap constraints.
The Bruins also have Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as their current goalie tandem. One of them will have to move to make room for Rask. Ullmark inked a three-year, $15-million contract this summer so he's not going anywhere. Swayman becomes the likely candidate as he's waiver-exempt and can be sent to their AHL affiliate.
TSN's Chris Johnston also pointed out Rask's preference to return to the Bruins. However, he suggested the former Vezina Trophy winner could become an option for other clubs if the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a contract. A contender in need of a reliable playoff goaltender, like the Edmonton Oilers, could come calling if Rask remains available.