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Tuukka Rask speaks on his future and exiting the Toronto bubble

For whatever reason, Tuukka Rask became a polarizing figure among certain Bruins fans since he took over for Tim Thomas full time in 2013. And some of his detractors didn’t cut him slack when he exited the Toronto bubble during Boston’s first-round series with the Carolina Hurricanes as he attended to a family situation. After some speculation, we now know the specifics of what led Rask to return home, as he recently revealed to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. “I got a phone call from my wife, and my daughter was in a state that she needed medical attention and she wasn’t doing well. At that point, I had no choice but to go home. It’s as simple as that,” Rask told Conroy before Shawn Thornton’s annual Putts and Punches charity golf event. “If you get a phone call wherever you are, like I did, it’s a pretty easy decision. What bothered me a little bit was people thinking that I just left because I didn’t like it there. I’m not going to lie to you, [the bubble] was awful. But if I didn’t have a reason to leave, I wouldn’t have left, obviously. There’s that. But my daughter’s fine now, the family”s good, and it made me feel good. When I got home, they were happy to have me home and things got back to normal pretty quickly, so I knew that I made the right decision. It had nothing to do with hockey or the bubble. It was just the fact that I had to make that decision and I stand by it.” Jaroslav Halak took over for Rask in the Toronto bubble. The Bruins won the next three contests against the Hurricanes to secure their Round 1 triumph before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in five games of their second-round series. With his daughter’s improved condition, Rask has his sights set on returning to the Bruins for the final year of his contract. Boston’s all-time winningest goaltender found his name on the trade rumor mill with GM Don Sweeney facing an important off-season to keep the team in Stanley Cup contention. Rask has a no-trade clause in his contract. He doesn’t appear willing to use that anytime soon. “I don’t see any reason for that,” Rask told Conroy. “I’ve been here for a long time and the organization’s been so great for me. We’ve built our home in Boston and we call this home. So, yeah, I don’t want to play for anybody else. I think where my heads at is focusing on next year and then hopefully a couple of more years after that and then pass the torch for the next guy after that. I want to help the organization as much as I can.” The Bruins don’t have many chances left to hoist another Stanley Cup with their over-30 core of Rask, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara if he returns. At age 33, Rask, who could hit the UFA market next off-season, wants to make the most of whatever time he has left in Boston.
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Bostonbruins

Blues sign Torey Krug; Kevan Miller re-signs with Bruins

Torey Krug became an unlikely hero during the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup run in 2013. He became a fan-favorite among the Causeway faithful as exemplified by his helmetless, bone-jarring hit on Blues forward Robert Thomas in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final six years later. Well, Thomas and Krug will now be teammates in St. Louis. The now-former Bruin signed a new seven-year contract with an annual cap hit of $6.5 million per season. By comparison, the Bruins reportedly offered Krug the same salary for six years before Don Sweeney took the deal off the table on Friday. Moments after the Krug news surfaced on Twitter, the Bruins confirmed the re-signing of veteran defenseman Kevan Miller. The ex-Vermont Catamount, who’s been plagued by injuries the last two years, returns on a one-year deal with a $1.25 million cap hit. Perhaps Sweeney has another move in mind following Krug’s departure. The sixth-year general manager postponed his original press conference — scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday — to Saturday at 1 p.m. The Bruins reportedly have interest in forwards Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. Hall, a Hart Trophy recipient with the Devils in 2018, played for his third team (Coyotes) since the Oilers selected him with the top overall pick in 2010. Smith, while not as prolific a goal scorer as Hall, quietly became a solid offensive weapon for the Predators, notching 20 goals in five of his nine seasons in the Music City. With a disgruntled fanbase, Sweeney needs to make a big splash. His free agency track record hasn’t been anything to write home about since he took over for Peter Chiarelli in 2015. Adding Hall, Smith or another top name like Tyler Toffoli or Alex Pietrangelo will at least give New Englanders a sense of hope — or even relief
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Bostonbruins

Craig Smith signing provides a need, but Bruins still have work to do

The Bruins were less than 24 hours removed from watching Torey Krug depart for St. Louis. They’ll need to fill that big hole on the left side of the defense either from within the organization or via free agency or trade. But GM Don Sweeney had other holes to fill entering an important off-season, particularly in the middle-six of Boston’s lineup. With that in mind, the Bruins found one of their needs on the open market with the addition of former Predators winger Craig Smith on Saturday. The Bruins inked the veteran winger to a three-year deal with an average cap hit of $3.1 million per season. “Yeah, it was pretty exciting…obviously a great opportunity here, so we’re ecstatic about that,” Smith said regarding his signing with the Bruins via Zoom. “My wife and I were kind of going through the boxes of what we want checked off for places and I couldn’t be more happy to land here. I’d like to thank the Jacobs family and especially Don Sweeney and the rest of the staff for believing in us. My wife and I felt comfortable that this was going to be. This checked off all the boxes and especially, this is a team that catches your attention and is going to be definitely a contender. We’re excited and we’re ecstatic. Last night when things got done, I think we were both kind of shook and just excited to get there and go to work.” Smith’s wife became a selling point. But what did the Bruins have to offer aside from discussing his potential role? Well, they had to look no further than their top-line center to sell Smith on coming to Boston. “Yeah, we spoke,” Smith said on his discussions with Patrice Bergeron. “I have a lot of respect for him, especially his game. I don’t know him personally. This was the first time that we had talked. But the way he discussed his team and where they’re at, and the manner that he carried himself throughout the phone call was impressive to me. As a player, I’ve played a little while now and it’s definitely attractive to hear a guy talk about his team like that and how much passion he has for his city and the love he has for his teammates. That’s something I want to be a part of.” Smith likely won’t see any time with Bergeron, be it on even strength or special teams. But the 31-year-old has plenty to offer whether he lines up with Charlie Coyle and/or David Krejci. The Bruins struggled to generate 5v5 offense during each of their last three postseason exits. Last season, the Predators outscored their opponents in 5v5 play 46-22 when Smith touched the ice, and most of his shifts began in the defensive zone. With Smith’s 76 career power-play points, the Bruins have another decent option for their secondary man-advantage unit. Combine that with his five career 20-goal seasons and you have yourself another well-rounded option for Bruce Cassidy’s squad. “Well, I think five-on-five scoring,” Sweeney said regarding Smith’s strengths. “Five of the last seven years, he’s topped 20 goals. Everybody advertised him as an absolute true professional. He’s a true right-winger, volume shooter, probably plays best on the second- or third-line role. Can certainly play the bumper on the power play. We described the fact that Bergy [Bergeron] is in that spot so he’s probably not likely taking it, but more than happy to move around and be a shooter on the second one if necessary or he can slide down low in the drop-off. “We’ve felt all along that the depth in scoring has to be there. It showed up this year in the playoffs. It was a real factor for us in the previous year. Craig touched an awful lot of the boxes that we were looking to plug that hole with.” Smith’s signing gives the Bruins another viable scoring option. But Sweeney remains active on the free agent and trade fronts. The team still needs another top-six weapon along with filling Krug’s void either from within or externally. The open market remains busy with Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall and Tyler Toffoli among the top available names. The Bruins have a little over $12.295 million in salary-cap space with pending new deals for RFA’s Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk looming. Adding another big name might take some creativity. But that shouldn’t stop Sweeney from trying to keep the team’s Stanley Cup window open.
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